His central message, which has remained the same through global booms and recessions, is admirably humdrum. He seeks to describe, in detail, how great bosses run their companies. After decades of minute observation, he concludes that hard work and perseverance matter more than genius. His heroes are self-effacing company men who spend years patiently building their organisations, rather than self-promoting egomaniacs who leap from fad to fad and firm to firm. In essence, Mr Collins is repackaging the universal message of self-help literature. Everybody can be successful, he argues, so long as they stick to a set of demanding but not impossible rules. For most company men and women, few of whom are geniuses, this is heartening news.
Schumpeter: Built to last | The Economist
Yet it seems the argument is not so convincing..
Mr Collins’s love of vanilla virtues is as refreshing as a bowl of ice
cream. Other gurus who encourage companies to tear themselves apart in
the name of “transformation” have caused terrible harm. Few companies
have suffered much from trying to be more methodical. Yet it is hard to
read Mr Collins’s latest work without feeling doubts. Are his
conclusions as reliable as he implies? Some of the companies that he has
celebrated over the years—Hewlett Packard and Motorola in “Built to
Last” and Circuit City and Fannie Mae in “Good to Great”—have fallen
from grace. Circuit City, an electronics retailer, went bust. Fannie
Mae, a mortgage giant backed by the American government, is worse than
bust, having burned up tens of billions of dollars of taxpayers’ cash.
Mr Collins is allergic to egomaniacs, but how else can you describe the
late Steve Jobs, perhaps the most successful businessman of his era?