This is a business classics. Came before another book from Collins 'Good to great'.
In fact, Collins says in 'Good to great' that, knowing all that they know now, 'Built to last' should have come second and 'Good to great' first in the order. First you build a great company (using 'Good to great') and then immortalize it using 'Built to last'.
In 'Built to last', the authors take a set of companies. In each pair, one company went on to become a legendary company and the other faded into oblivion. They make comparisons between companies such as GE v/s Westinghouse, Marriott v/s Howard Johnson, Motorola v/s Texas Instruments.
Authors are careful about how things might change for these companies in the future. They say their main focus has been to extract those characteristics that are responsible for transforming companies. Down the line, if certain companies choose to ignore them and write their own failure story, that does not disprove the principles. Good thinking. Because some of the companies that appear in 'Built to last' did not retain their greatness or companies which were thought have faded off have come back strongly.
Authors are extremely effective with compiling mounds of data, carefully analyzing the data, coming up with patterns and then validating (or invalidating) those patterns against hypotheses or fitting new hypotheses to fit unmistakable patterns. It is really an art to be able to do that so consistently in both books. Collins claims in one place that being able to do that is one of his skills.
A lot of good information. A lot of management insight.
The audio book read by the authors is a very nice one too.
Q&A at the end addresses many questions.
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