Book Summary of Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap

It’s not just a million-dollar question, it’s a multi-million dollar question: why do some businesses just survive while others thrive? If you’re looking for the answer to this question, look no further than Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap … and Others Don’t by Jim Collins.

Although the book was originally published in 2001, it is still deeply relevant today. After its release it quickly went on to become a bestseller and it is still viewed as a modern business classic. In Good to Great, Collins seeks to identify the factors that allow some companies to stand out from the crowd and make the transition from good to great. Here are some of the primary conclusions that Collins draws:


Collins identifies five levels of leadership ability and describes the traits of each. Those who he classifies as level 5 leaders – the best leaders – have both intense determination and profound humility. The importance of good leadership is not surprising, but Collins offers a detailed description of the traits of good leadership that is quite helpful.

Deal with who first.

Collins explains that it is of paramount importance that you secure the right leadership team before you begin addressing an overarching strategy. That is, you need to hire talented individuals who can produce quality work and have level five leadership skills before you begin attempting to lead your team in producing quality work.

Confront the facts.

No matter how difficult the facts are, Collins emphasizes the importance of being able to face those difficult facts with honesty and integrity. He details a four-step process for ensuring that your company remains aware of emerging trends and also of its own weaknesses.

Be a hedgehog.

In other words, learn to do one thing really, really well. When hedgehogs are attacked, they curl up into a spiky, little ball – and that is a surprisingly successful strategy. Most predators aren’t smart enough to figure out how to get into that spiky ball – so the hedgehog is really, really good at that one thing. Collins explains that companies should learn to really excel in one specific thing.

Have a culture of discipline.

Collins found that discipline was one of the important characteristics that distinguished good companies from great companies. Discipline doesn’t mean that you should discipline your workers more harshly; it simply means that you should take care to hire deeply determined workers with an abiding sense of inner discipline. Disciplined workers will be better at the singled-minded hedgehog work concept.