am 9. April 2009
GREAT; as a betting man myself, i loved Chapter 4 'Upping the Ante'. It covers the psychology of betting, why gambling gives betting a bad name and physics of bets, types of bets (i.e. market bets, process bets) and the art of linking bets together to build reald advantage over your competitors.
GOOD; The author chose companies from the Inc 500 list in order to analyze the key features of success, i.e. becoming a breakthrough company. Here the author chose well since most of the books concentrate either on very small companies or very large companies while neglecting the Inc 500.
BAD; Examples of successful companies/case studies suffer from two BIG problems. One, the selection problem. Do you want to find a business case where betting big and capturing market share, despite losing money was successful? Sure, no problem. We can find causes to support our theory. Do you want to find a business case where betting big and capturing market share while losing money leads to failure? Again, we can find it. No matter what business philosophy, we can select companies supporting our theory. Two, the attribution problem. What we attribute success may not be correct at all. The very same attribute might lead to failure in an another company.
If you enjoy case studies, this might me a good read for you. I don't. Chapter 4 on betting saved the book my four star rating.
The Breakthrough Company does for smaller businesses that want to improve growth and profitability what Good to Great did for larger businesses. Keith R. McFarland has mostly duplicated the Good to Great research methodology except to look at those companies which have broken-out among smaller firms.
Like Good to Great, The Breakthrough Company focuses on leadership style and company culture. A number of the findings seemed no different from Good to Great, but different titles were used in this book.
The book suggests six fundamental transitions:
1. From having the leader be sovereign to putting the company's development ahead of the leader's interests.
2. Rather than making incremental improvements in response to market changes, make a few large bets that offer huge potential rewards.
3. Instead of having the company's culture be determined by whoever is there, build a company around an integrity-filled commitment to doing a good job.
4. Go from succeeding by being small and agile to succeeding because of proprietary advantages you develop.
5. Stop relying solely on internal ideas by getting help from wherever you can.
6. Encourage people internally to challenge assumptions in constructive ways rather than blindly following a narrow vision.
If you like your information compact, each chapter is summarized in detail at the end. You could get an overview of the book that way in about 30 minutes and decide if you want to read more.
So what is he really describing? To me, it all sounded like continuing business model innovation . . . an area I've studied and written about for 30 years. Yet, the book doesn't describe the business model innovation literature. That's the biggest surprise and missing element.
I thought that the cases were mostly pretty interesting, but some are presented in such a fragmentary way that I didn't really get a sense out of what made their performance special in the market place. The ones that I didn't get enough of a feeling for included Chico's FAS, Express Personnel, and The Staubach Company. Intuit, Polaris, and Paychex are the best described cases.
I also would have liked to have seen a comparison between these companies and the Good to Great Companies. That would have made it more obvious how the smaller companies face different issues and challenges than the larger ones.
If you like case studies of top performers, you'll like this book. Take a look.