Jim Collins has authored or co-authored six books that have sold over 10-million copies altogether. Good to Great may be the most famous (published in 2001, still the #1 best seller on Amazon in “Strategic Business Planning”), but Built to Last is also right up there (1994). They’re both celebrations of extremely successful companies, and understandably pored over by multitudes in hopes of insight.
But there’s also a dark cousin in Collins’ book family, How the Mighty Fall (2009), which came across my desk last month and which will now form the basis of a five-part series here on Adam Smith, Esq. “Mighty” is in many ways the true evil twin of the first pair of books, and Collins is straightforward about that, writing in the Preface,
The origins of this book date back to when I became curious about why some of the greatest companies in history, including some once-great enterprises we’d researched for Good to Great and Built to Last, had fallen. The aim of this piece is to offer a research-grounded perspective of how decline can happen, even to those that appear invincible, so that leaders might have a better chance of avoiding their tragic fate.
The thought has occurred to you that I may be implying something about Law Land. I’m not. We hear a drumbeat of alarm about the high end of the legal industry, and while some points are well taken (we won’t rehearse them here, but they orbit around the Sun of more-for-less), the long-term, global demand for sophisticated and cross-border legal advice seems healthier than ever. (Again, we won’t rehearse this debate, but the other side of that coin points out that while the pie may be growing, the allocation of its slices is very much up for grabs.)
Back to Collins.