Built to Last

November 23rd, 2015   •   no comments   
Built to Last

By Jim Collins and Jerry Porras

Jerry Porras’ and Jim Collins’ Built to Last is a philosophical blueprint based on research into the development of some of the United States’ most successful corporations. Recognizing struggling competitors whose businesses disappear after a period of time, Collins and Porras focus their research towards 18 bona fide, “visionary” companies and analyze them in accordance with guidelines they’ve set on what makes a good company. Selection criteria and research between the two authors was extensive, with attention paid towards companies with average founding dates of 1897 and prior along with a surefire system evaluating companies as start-ups, midsize companies, and large companies.


In the face of sociological events, Porras and Collins wanted to answer the question “what makes the truly exceptional companies different from the other companies?” with an emphasis on timeless management principles instead of trends and innovations like employee empowerment and shared values.

Porras and Collins learned that their prior beliefs were misfires. During a six year research process, they “unlearned” much of what they learned with large corporations’ successes. In place of former beliefs lays a new groundwork for what exemplifies visionary companies. Here are some of the former myths removed with their research:

  1. A great idea is needed to start companies
  2. Visionary organizations need charismatic leaders
  3. Maximizing profits is the dominate goal with visionary companies
  4. Visionary companies focus on beating competitors
  5. Hiring outsiders as CEO’s is the best way to spark an organization

Some of the core beliefs Porras and Collins discuss in Built to Last include preserving a core ideology, the BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goals) concept, owning a cult-like culture, trying new things, refusing the idea of a “great idea” to start a company, and consistent innovation. Preserving a core ideology allows companies stay in tune with competition through the constant evolution of products. The BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goals) philosophy encourages organization leaders to conduct paradigm shifts with their products by constantly launching missions, like new products and the building of “firsts.” Both authors also dive into the “cult-like culture” mantra, where every single employee in the company must adapt to a leader’s vision and become cohesive and non-fragmented to survive. Porras and Collins provide the examples of fantastic department store sales people and companies’ devotion to technological products as milestones.

Other philosophies described in Built to Last include constant innovation, “refusing the idea of a great idea”, and embracing evolution. According to the authors, innovating allows companies to keep products and services updated to beat the competition. They use Boeing Engineering as an example of an innovative leader and rival McDonnell Douglas as a company struggling to meet industry standards. Porras and Collins denounce the “great idea” based on research that found many past founders did not start companies with established ideas (i.e. Hewlett Packard’s involvement with failed products prior to discovering electronics as a niche.)

In essence, Built to Last is an analysis of how visionary companies should operate. It revolves around value arrangement and does not specifically ask companies to fire employees, remove resources, etc. It asks for companies to assume a workmanlike culture and keep an eye out for tomorrow and the long term.

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