Good to Great by Jim Collins


Good to Great might be the most celebrated business book of the twenty-first century – perhaps even of all time. The catchy title and idea of greatness certainly helps; but the five year analytical study behind the findings is perhaps what provides its enduring appeal. It feels like a roadmap for greatness has been discovered and laid down for everybody to see. It’s not without criticism – which I’ve looked at separately here – but for this post, let’s summarize what the book is about, and what it tells us.

21 researchers, digging through data on hundreds of companies, over a five year period, in search of an answer to a simple question: what makes a company go from being just good, to great? Collins’ team produced a criterion for what it meant to be considered great in their research:Read More »


Are Criticisms of Good to Great Fair?

jim collins inspiring ideas

Good to Great has always been one of my favourite business books – when I first read it, it was like an illumination of clarity; the mistakes of the company I worked for at the time suddenly came into sharp focus. I recently went back to read it again, and it remains a compelling read (full write up here). However, this time I had a look over some of the prominent criticism of the book, and it was interesting to see how many people now shun the book, as if it was the work of a charlatan.

The great companies didn’t stay so great

The biggest issue with the book is what happened to the 11 selected ‘great’ companies post publication. Here’s a reminder of those companies again:

  • Abbott
  • Circuit City
  • Fannie Mae
  • Gillette
  • Kimberly-Clark
  • Kroger
  • Nucor
  • Philip Morris
  • Pitney Bowes
  • Walgreens
  • Wells Fargo

Read More »

Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug

dont make me think coverA quick search on Amazon reveals around 6,500 books on usability. Back in 2000, when Krug first released Don’t Make Me Think, I’m pretty sure it was nowhere near this. Since then the idea of making software – particularly websites, web apps, and mobile apps – highly tuned for user experience, has become commonplace and a source of competitive advantage. We have a lot to thank Apple for in that sense; delighting the user has become a rich pursuit.

Although, usability has always been about the same basic things, and it shows in this updated third edition of Krug’s classic work. Not much has changed in his advice, the core lessons are all the same, just some of the examples now reference Facebook and YouTube. He’s also added a chapter specifically on mobile, but even that makes constant reference to the general principles laid down before.Read More »

Peter Thiel’s 7 Questions for Product Innovation

In his book Zero to One, Peter Thiel looks at why the cleantech industry crashed, and believes that most cleantech companies failed to adequately answer one or more of seven fundamental questions about their business. Although these questions are primarily for businesses as a whole – and in particular technology startups – they are equally applicable for new product innovations. It’s worth asking if your pipeline of innovations can adequately respond to them.Read More »

Zero to One by Peter Thiel

I was expecting Peter Thiel to write a book where he showcases what makes a successful startup, and how you can build a company for massive growth. Given his experience in both founding a hugely successful company, and investing in a bunch of them since, you might imagine he has some detailed lessons to share.

But this isn’t what Thiel’s book is about – it’s far more ambitious. Asides from prodding and goading you into disagreeing with him, Thiel primarily wants to lament the current stagnation of human progress, and crucially, demand that startups seize the opportunity given to them to sort it all out.Read More »

Books Read in 2014


My reading suffered a little this year, due to relentless listening of podcasts, and subscribing to way too many magazines. I also started quite a few books which I never finished. But luckily I did finish a handful of really good books, some of which are below. 3 works of fiction, none of which were outstanding, and 9 works of business literature, four of which were excellent.Read More »