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Greatness – Is it on your Radar?

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My last blog opened up a conversation about greatness. Jim Collins, the author of Good to Great – is synonymous with the term great in business. His body of work over 25 years stands in my view as a “great” body of work.

So what makes it great?  In his first book – Beyond Entrepreneurship – Turning your Business into An Enduring Great Company – James C. Collins and William C. Lazier 1992– actually define a great company (Pg. vi) as one that meets the following criteria:

  1. Performance
  2. Impact
  3. Reputation
  4. Longevity

In his subsequent work he went on to discover many other elements These questions published on his web site are a wonderful basis for having a strategic conversation in any business.

It is interesting to reflect on his original criteria and he has, in his own, way lived the model and produced a great body of work.

  1. Performance: There are few if any researchers in the business field who have put together such a substantive body of work. The scale of the work is huge.
  2. Impact: there are few if any business researchers who have had the impact he has. While I have no idea of the numbers, I know Jim Collins’ books have been best sellers and are available in every airport bookstore I visit – in fact every book store. Certainly at this level he is impactful.
  3. Reputation: Building on his publication success, his reputation as a researcher and as a speaker is formidable and I have no doubt he is considered pre-eminent in the field. He is one of the very few who might be considered Global.
  4. Longevity: For over 25 years Jim Collins has dedicated his research to understanding what makes companies great. That is a serious achievement. The tenacity and endurance required to pursue the difficult – and almost immeasurable concept has certainly created a body of work which I am confident is creating wonderful “strategic conversations” in many businesses around the world. Over 20 years I have referred to his work in my consulting work and have no doubt this will continue into the future!

In devoting his life to a series of challenging questions around what is a great business? Jim Collins has produced a great template based on serious research. It is interesting to reflect that research into business of this depth and breadth is  “limited” and there is much hypothesis and opinion. This body of research is substantial.

In a recent Growth Summit “15  –  presentation he recently challenged the audience in Australia with a much more challenging question: (he referred to it as the 13th Question.)

As I remember it he asked:

What difference do you make in the lives of the people around you?

Again as I remember it he proposed that it was the only question that really mattered!


It is the great question confronting us all?

Reframed for a business it emerges as:

What difference does this business make in the lives of its customers (and/ or the world?)

Any strategy development process without this question at its core in my view is fundamentally flawed! It is amazing how many businesses have not answered this question or really have only paid lip service to it! By definition it is a very challenging question – because it goes to the heart and soul of the business! (just as it does for every individual?)

Businesses whose only reason for existence is money have little hope of enduring and no chance of being great!! The great businesses of the world are working towards a greater goal!

I am reminded of a story, which opens the conversation about “making a difference”. One thing it highlights is the pursuit of the “infinite”!

If the actual work itself creates a perspective, which raises the spirit – it just might be that it leads to greatness?


The Sculpture story

  • Three stonemasons in the middle ages were hard at work when a visitor came along and asked them what they were doing.

–The first stonemason was hard at work, sweat on his brow.

“I am cutting this stone”, he grumbled.

–The second stone mason, though less distraught, responded with a deep           sigh, “I’m building a parapet”.

–The third stonemason replied with a radiant face, “I am building a beautiful cathedral that will glorify God for centuries to come”.

The story raises many questions – so when you think about the implications of it for your business – is Building a GREAT business on your radar?

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