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Read this along with 'Enduring Success', 24. März 2011
Fascinating book and no coincidence that we still talk about it 17 years after it was published. While some reviewers are criticising that not all companies in the study continue to be successful I think they both miss the point and did not read the author's claims carefully. They study a group of companies which was exceptionally successful during the observation period. This neither implies that these companies will continue to do well nor does it prevent us to learn from their past experiences.
What is more of a challenge for the book is the mind frame in which it was written. Authors' are not able to fully escape the main debates of their time (and they probably should not). For 'Built to Last' that means substantial space being devoted to vision and mission (hotly debated in the 1990s). I recommend that you also read 'Enduring Success: what we can learn from the history of outstanding corporations' - a new book that picks up topics we care about today (e.g. innovation versus execution), using the same research approach as 'Built to Last'.