Good to Great – Jim Collins (2001)

With millions of copies sold this management classic has taught managers all over the world how to run their business and how to go from a good to a great company. There are some really valuable concepts in it (as the hedgehog principle and type-5 leaders), but reading it a decade and a half after publication also shows the flaws this kind of books have: they are a great way to learn lessons from the past but do a rather poor job in giving guidance for the future.

The most painful example in Good to Great is Fannie Mae, one of the great companies central to the book’s concept. Collins and his team see the way Fannie changed the mortgage market with their goal of bringing house ownership within reach for everyone  as exemplary of how a Great company should behave. We, of course, now all know that these ‘innovations’ were at the core of the financial meltdown of 2008. Giving mortgages to people without income or assets and selling the securitized parts of those loans on to others was simply not a great idea.

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