Good to Great


Jim Collins

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Good to Great Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Jim Collins's Good to Great. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Jim Collins

Jim Collins was born in 1958 and earned his bachelor’s and MBA degrees from Stanford University. He began his teaching career at the Stanford University Graduate School of Business and later went on to found an independent management research laboratory in Boulder, Colorado. In addition to his writing and research, Collins now works as a consultant for both businesses and the social sector. In addition to Good to Great, Collins has published four other book-length works of nonfiction and one shorter monograph about applying his good-to-great concepts to the social sector. He is an avid rock climber and is married to triathlete Joanne Ernst.
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Historical Context of Good to Great

Good to Great was researched and written during the height of the dot-com bubble in the late 1990s, but it was published in 2001, after that bubble had burst. With readers searching for alternatives to the stereotype of the visionary business leader, Collins’s simple lessons in humble management were especially welcome at the time of the book’s publication. Accordingly, it became a bestseller with a variety of audiences beyond the business sector. Some of the good-to-great companies have faced significant setbacks since the book’s publication, most notably Fannie Mae and Circuit City. These real-world changes offer an additional perspective on the good-to-great concepts and how companies might fail if they stop consistently applying those principles.

Other Books Related to Good to Great

Good to Great is directly related to Jim Collins’s other books, with the author himself stating that he views it as a prequel to his 1994 book Built to Last. It is also closely linked to How the Mighty Fall, the author’s 2009 book about the decline of once-great companies. Additionally, Good to Great is one in broad genre of countless books that claim to reveal the secrets of successful companies. A few of the most notable comparisons include Patty McCord’s 2018 release Powerful, which focuses on building effective company cultures of the kind Collins describes, and Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s 2010 release Black Swan, which focuses on the hidden impact of improbable events like the ones that often shape companies.
Key Facts about Good to Great
  • Full Title: Good to Great
  • When Written: Late 1990s
  • Where Written: Likely at the author’s research laboratory in Boulder, Colorado
  • When Published: 2001
  • Literary Period: Contemporary
  • Genre: Business, Management, Self-Help
  • Climax: The unifying metaphor of the flywheel
  • Point of View: First-person, in the voice of author Jim Collins

Extra Credit for Good to Great

Always on time. According to a profile in The New York Times, author Jim Collins carries three stopwatches at all times and logs all of his activities into a spreadsheet.

Lessons from Ancient Greece. Collins’s teaching and research methods are based on the iterative dialogue of the classical Socratic method, which also informs some of the good-to-great practices the book describes.