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Book Review: How the Mighty Fall

Vu Chung

In my opinion, business books fall into three categories: research overload, author’s own bubble and just about right, the latter being a book that is well-balanced with the right amount of relevant research and the author’s perspective. Jim Collins’s “How the Mighty Fall” belongs in this last category.

Every organization, no matter how powerful, great, wealthy or big, is susceptible to decline. The reason for the decline most often has nothing to do with complacency or that the organization does not evolve. In fact, the research done by Mr. Collins and his colleagues shows that most of the companies that failed actually do change, but sometimes too much. The book looks at the decline of some of the world’s best companies, the reasons behind their demise and what others can learn from these failures. Based on the research, Mr. Collins and his team developed a five-stage process detailing the characteristics of failure, which is depicted in the chart below. ?

The book has just the right amount of research to support a theory and not too much technical jargon that bore the readers to death. The examples that Mr. Collins used are familiar companies with very strong business models, yet they are still failing or had failed. In addition to facts about these companies, Mr. Collins also offers tips on how to sustain the life of an organization. The one tip that sticks with me is having “the right people in key seats.” Sounds simple, but many failed companies did not quite get this concept.

Overall, I find “How the Mighty Fall” to be educational and quite entertaining. It’s a fast read with very interesting facts and tips. I highly recommend it.

Just for kicks, which company do you think is grasping for salvation right now? CJP

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