Book Review: How the Mighty Fall

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I read How the Mighty Fall about the time it came out in 2009. The logical question is: “Why did you wait so long to review it?”

The short answer is that I didn’t think it was that great a book. I still don’t. I decided to review it because Art Petty and I were going to discuss it on our Leadership and Management Book Podcast, along with Great by Choice.

Great by Choice, the book Jim Collins wrote with Morten Hansen, came out close to the same time. and I thought it was a great book. I still do. In fact I think it’s Collins ’best book and said so when I reviewed it.

Great by Choice, like Good to Great, has interesting and penetrating insights. The writing is crisp and energetic. The logic holds together well. None of that is true for How the Mighty Fall.

There’s not much new in How the Mighty Fall. If you’re been around business for any length of time know about the role of hubris in leading to a fall. Shoot, the Greeks covered that territory a couple of thousand years ago.

Collins divides the fall of a great company into five stages.

* Stage 1: Hubris Born of Success

* Stage 2: Undisciplined Pursuit of More

* Stage 3: Denial of Risk and Peril

* Stage 4: Grasping for Salvation

* Stage 5: Capitulation to Irrelevance or Death

You may not have classified the process of a failing company into those five stages, but I doubt that you would say, “Wow!” when you read them in Collins’s book.

The writing and the logic are sloppier than Collins’s other books. The book seemed to me to be dashed off as a target of opportunity, more than the product of the deep research Collins usually does.

Read it for historical perspective. Read it if you suspect your organization may be heading for trouble. Don’t expect the insight or tight reasoning of Collins’ other books.

Bottom Line

This is an interesting read, but there’s not much new here and precious little that gives you a way to change your behavior. Read it for the historical perspective or if you suspect that your company may be headed for trouble.

If you’re looking at all Collins’s work and trying to decide which book to read, I’d put Good to Great, Built to Last, and Great by Choice way ahead of How the Mighty Fall.

You can check out some of my highlights and notes from this book on GoodReads.


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