“Great vision without great people is irrelevant.”

 – Jim Collins, Author 


Book Data

Publication Date: October 16, 2001

Print Length: 208 pages 

Best Sellers Rank in Amazon:

#1 in Business Systems & Planning  

 #5 in Business Teams 

 #6 in Company Business Profiles  

Sales: Over four million copies worldwide   

The Topic

Jim Collins’ “Good to Great” focuses on the topic of corporate transformation and business excellence. Collins seeks to understand what sets great companies apart from their good or mediocre counterparts. Through extensive research comparing companies that made the leap from good to great with those that didn’t, Collins identifies specific characteristics and practices that are essential for achieving and sustaining greatness. These principles are meant to serve as a guide for organizational leaders aspiring to elevate their companies to the highest levels of performance and success.

The Ideal Reader

The ideal reader for “Good to Great” includes:

Business Leaders and Executives: Those in decision-making positions can apply the book’s principles to guide organizational transformation, emphasizing long-term success over quick wins.

Entrepreneurs: Startup founders can benefit from understanding what makes companies sustainably great, aiding them in building a strong foundation for their ventures.

Management Consultants: Professionals who advise businesses on performance and strategy can use the book’s insights to offer evidence-based recommendations to clients.

Business Students: Those studying business, management, or leadership can find the book a valuable case study in corporate excellence, supplementing academic theories with real-world examples.

Organizational Development Professionals: People who focus on improving organizational effectiveness and employee performance can apply the book’s principles to design better business processes.

Aspiring Leaders: Even those not currently in leadership roles but who aspire to be can gain insights into what kind of leader they should aim to become.

The Promise

Though Jim Collins doesn’t make an explicit “promise” per se, the underlying commitment in “Good to Great” is to provide readers with empirically-backed principles that can guide companies in achieving and sustaining greatness. By closely examining what sets great companies apart, the book aims to offer actionable insights and a conceptual framework that leaders can apply to transform their own organizations. The promise is that readers will gain the tools and understanding needed to initiate meaningful, lasting change in their businesses.

The Title

The title “Good to Great” is impactful because it encapsulates the book’s core message in a succinct and memorable way. It suggests a journey of improvement and excellence, which is universally appealing, especially in the business world where being “good” is often not enough to ensure long-term success. The brevity and clarity of the title make it easy to remember and share, increasing its impact and reach.

The subtitle, “Why Some Companies Make the Leap…And Others Don’t,” adds a layer of intrigue and specificity. It sets up a problem and a question that the book promises to answer, making it immediately relevant to business leaders, entrepreneurs, and managers. It also introduces the element of selective success (“some companies”), emphasizing that the insights offered are based on rigorous analysis rather than generic advice.

Together, the title and subtitle work well because they concisely convey what the book is about, why it matters, and what readers can expect to gain—insight into what differentiates truly great companies from their merely good counterparts.

The Methodology

Jim Collins and his research team employ a rigorous methodology in “Good to Great” to identify what distinguishes great companies from good ones. The study is grounded in empirical data and involves a comparative analysis. Companies were selected based on specific criteria that identified them as having made the transition from good to great performance, as evidenced by their stock returns outperforming the market and their industry peers over an extended period of time.

Collins and his team then compared these “great” companies with a set of “comparison companies” that operated in the same industry and faced similar conditions but did not make the leap to greatness. Through in-depth analyses, including interviews, financial reports, and media articles, Collins aimed to isolate the factors that contributed to the outperformance of the great companies.

By comparing and contrasting the great companies with the comparison companies, the research team was able to identify common characteristics and practices among the great companies that were largely absent from the merely good or mediocre ones. These became the key principles outlined in the book, such as Level 5 Leadership, the Hedgehog Concept, and the Flywheel Effect.

This methodology lends credibility to the book’s conclusions, as they are based on a systematic analysis of real-world companies rather than anecdotal evidence or speculative theories.

Hedgehog Concept

The Hedgehog Concept is one of the key principles identified in “Good to Great.” The idea is derived from the parable of the hedgehog and the fox, where the hedgehog knows one big thing and executes it well, while the fox knows many things but lacks focus. According to Collins, companies that go from good to great find their “Hedgehog Concept,” which is the intersection of three circles:

  • What you are deeply passionate about: The activities that ignite your passion and make you excited to go to work every day.
  • What you can be the best in the world at: Not just what you can be competent in, but what you can excel in to the extent that you’re better than all your competitors.
  • What drives your economic engine: The metric(s) that most directly ensures your organization’s financial success, be it profit per employee, customer satisfaction, etc.

When a company identifies its Hedgehog Concept, it then focuses all its efforts and resources on activities that fall within this intersection, eliminating or de-emphasizing activities that do not.

Flywheel Effect

The Flywheel Effect is another key concept in “Good to Great.” The flywheel is a metaphor for the cumulative effort required to move a company from good to great. Just as it takes considerable initial effort to push a heavy flywheel into motion, achieving greatness requires persistent effort and disciplined application of the Hedgehog Concept and other principles over time. Once the flywheel is in motion, it gains momentum and becomes easier to keep moving.

According to Collins, there’s no single defining action or grand program that leads to greatness. Instead, it’s about the consistent and persistent application of key principles. Each push on the flywheel is equivalent to a good decision, a small step forward, or an incremental improvement. Over time, these efforts accumulate, and the flywheel begins to turn faster and with greater momentum, leading to a breakthrough and the achievement of greatness.

Both the Hedgehog Concept and the Flywheel Effect emphasize the importance of focus, discipline, and persistence in transforming a good company into a great one.

The Book's Structure


Background on the research methodology and the criteria for selecting companies.

Part One: Good is the Enemy of Great

Good is the Enemy of Great: Introduction to the main thesis that settling for good can prevent companies from becoming great.

Part Two: The Characteristics of Great Companies


         Level 5 Leadership: Discusses the qualities of effective leaders who can drive the transition from good to                    great.

          First Who, Then What: The importance of getting the right people on board before deciding on the direction            to take.

          Confront the Brutal Facts (Yet Never Lose Faith): The need for facing reality while maintaining an                              unwavering faith in achieving greatness.

          The Hedgehog Concept (Simplicity Within the Three Circles): Introduces the Hedgehog Concept and its                  three components—passion, best-at, and economic engine.

          A Culture of Discipline: The importance of disciplined people, disciplined thought, and disciplined action.

         Technology Accelerators: How technology should be used as an accelerator of momentum, not a creator of it.

Part Three: The Journey from Good to Great


         The Flywheel and the Doom Loop: Describes the Flywheel Effect and contrasts it with the Doom Loop, which           is the trap that companies fall into when they search for quick fixes.

         From Good to Great to Built to Last: Compares the findings in “Good to Great” with those in Collins’s earlier              work, “Built to Last,” and discusses how companies can sustain greatness.



          Summarizes the key points and reiterates the applicability of the principles for achieving sustained excellence.

What Made "Good to Great" a Best Seller?

“Good to Great” became a bestseller for several reasons:

Timely Insights: When the book was published, it filled a gap in understanding what specifically drives corporate success over the long term, a topic of great interest to business leaders and academics alike.

Rigorous Research: Jim Collins and his team used a robust methodology to collect and analyze data. This gave the book credibility and made its findings more compelling.

Actionable Principles: The book outlines clear, actionable steps for organizations aiming to move from good to great, making it a practical guide for business leaders.

Compelling Narratives: Real-world examples and case studies bring the principles to life, making the content engaging as well as educational.

Universal Appeal: While targeted at business leaders, the principles in the book are presented as universally applicable, attracting a broad readership that extends beyond the corporate world.

Clarity and Accessibility: The book is well-written, clear, and free of jargon, making it accessible to readers who may not have a background in business or management.

Author’s Reputation: Jim Collins was already a respected author and researcher in the field of business management, and this added to the book’s credibility.

Word-of-Mouth and Endorsements: Positive reviews and recommendations from trusted business leaders and publications helped to amplify the book’s impact.

Long-term Relevance: The principles outlined in the book have remained relevant, ensuring that it continues to be read and recommended long after its initial publication.

Complementary to Other Works: The book serves as both a standalone guide and a complement to Collins’ earlier work, “Built to Last,” broadening its appeal and utility.

For these reasons, “Good to Great” resonated with a large and diverse audience, making it a bestseller and a staple in business literature.

Write the Right Book Series

The “Write the Right Book” breakdown series shows you how the best selling business books you love follow the five foundationas of writing a must read book. Think of your book as a house. The strength of your home is in its foundation. Nail down a crystal-clear topic, know your ideal reader like they’re your best friend, give them a promise they can’t resist, and choose a title and subtitle that will grab their attention from across a crowded room. And don’t forget the blueprint—your structure. When you invest your time in getting clarity on these five  elements first, not only will writing your book be a lot easier and enjoyable, but you’ll also end up with a read that’s a genuine page-turner. 

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