Built to Last Book Summary - Built to Last Book explained in key points
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Built to Last summary

Jim Collins

Successful Habits of Visionary Companies

4.5 (302 ratings)
19 mins

Brief summary

Built to Last by Jim Collins uncovers the traits that distinguish visionary companies from the average ones, ranging from a long-term focus to cult-like cultures that endure over time.

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    Built to Last
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    Visionary companies can teach us through their enduring success.

    So-called visionary companies have a lot to teach us. They are companies with long track-records for success and widely admired as the crown jewels of their industries. What’s more, their success is enduring – they prosper even as great leaders retire and individual hit-products become obsolete.

    To properly study and learn from these companies, the authors first had to identify them by surveying hundreds of prominent CEOs for the names of companies they considered visionary. The 18 most commonly mentioned firms – including such venerable names as the Walt Disney Company, Marriott Hotels, and Merck – were included in the study. The visionary companies were then paired up with comparison companies: firms that shared similar products and markets but which, while not being outright poor performers, were called “visionary” far less often in the CEO survey.

    Both groups of companies were then examined across their considerable life spans (the average founding date lay in the 1890s for both groups). Based on massive amounts of data from interviews, annual reports, financial statements, news articles and many other sources, all aspects of these corporations were studied, ranging from their ownership structures to their cultures.

    To understand the extraordinary success of the visionary companies, consider this fact: if you had invested a dollar in their shares in 1926, that dollar would have been worth $6,356 by 1990. Compare that to $955 if you had invested in the comparison companies, and only $415 if you had invested in the general market, and you’ll see just how impressive the visionary companies’ performance is.

    No wonder that all manner of Fortune 500 companies have been fascinated by the findings of this study.

    Visionary companies can teach us through their enduring success.

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    What is Built to Last about?

    Built to Last (1994) examines 18 extraordinary and venerable companies to discover what has made them prosper for decades, in some cases for nearly two centuries. This groundbreaking study reveals the simple but inspiring differences that set these visionary companies apart from their less successful competitors.

    Built to Last is meant for every level of every organization, from CEOs to regular employees, and from Fortune 500 companies to start-ups and charitable foundations. The timeless advice uncovered in this book will help readers discover the importance of adhering to a core ideology while relentlessly stimulating progress.

    Built to Last Review

    Built to Last (1994) explores the enduring success of visionary companies and provides practical insights for building organizations that withstand the test of time. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • It presents a compelling framework based on years of research, identifying key characteristics and strategies employed by successful companies.
    • Through real-life examples and case studies, the book demonstrates how these companies weathered challenges and emerged as industry leaders.
    • Its thought-provoking analysis challenges conventional wisdom about business success, prompting readers to rethink their own approaches.

    Who should read Built to Last?

    • Anyone interested in how visionary companies have stayed successful for over a century
    • Anyone who wants to make their company, organization, department or team more purposeful
    • Anyone who wants to find tangible tools to drive progress, foster innovation or communicate values with their organization

    About the Author

    Jim Collins is an American author, lecturer and consultant, who, among other things, has taught at the Stanford University Graduate School of Business and is a frequent contributor to FortuneBusiness Week and Harvard Business Review. His other book, Good to Great, has sold over four million copies.

    Jerry I. Porras is an academic and business analyst. He is the Lane Professor Emeritus of Organizational Behavior and Change at the Stanford University Graduate School of Business. His primary interest lies in finding methods for aligning companies with their core purpose and values. 

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    Built to Last FAQs 

    What is the main message of Built to Last?

    The main message of Built to Last is about the characteristics that make enduring companies successful.

    How long does it take to read Built to Last?

    The reading time for Built to Last varies depending on the reader, but it typically takes several hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Built to Last a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Built to Last is a worthwhile read for those interested in understanding the secrets behind successful companies.

    Who is the author of Built to Last?

    Jim Collins is the author of Built to Last.

    What to read after Built to Last?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Built to Last, here are some recommendations we suggest:
    • Good to Great by Jim Collins
    • Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim
    • Great by Choice by Jim Collins and Morten T. Hansen
    • Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss and Tahl Raz
    • ReWork by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson
    • How the Mighty Fall by Jim Collins
    • Dare to Lead by Brené Brown
    • The Infinite Game by Simon Sinek
    • Sam Walton: Made in America by Sam Walton with John Huey
    • Leadership Is Language by David Marquet