Good to great: Apple as an example

From Good to Great: A comprehensive guide to success

I recently revisited the Jim Collins’s book “Good To Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t” which is a remarkable book that unveils the secrets behind transforming a good company into a great one. I think all companies, both Fortune 500s and small startups can take learnings from this book.

I encourage you to read the full book but here are the main concepts from the book summarized if you want a quick summary:

1. Level 5 Leadership:

  • Leaders are humble yet determined.
  • They put the company’s needs first. Ego doesn’t overshadow their decisions. They lead with humility and professional will.
  • Level 5 leaders build enduring greatness.

Example: Alan Mulally at Ford.

How: Mulally, former CEO of Ford, demonstrated a combination of personal humility and professional will. He focused on collaboration and transparency, turning Ford from a struggling automaker into a profitable and innovative company.

2. First Who, Then What:

  • People are the company’s main asset. Hire the right people first. Then decide on direction.
  • Wrong people off, right people in the right seats.
  • This leads to a thriving company.

Example: Southwest Airlines.

How: Southwest’s success has been partly attributed to hiring employees for attitude and cultural fit rather than specific skills. They ensured the right people were in the right roles, fostering a unique corporate culture that emphasized customer service.

3. Confront the Brutal Facts:

  • Face reality head-on. Acknowledge but don’t lose faith.
  • Create a culture where truth is heard. The Stockdale Paradox: unwavering faith and facing facts.
  • Transparency is key.

Example: IBM.

How: IBM faced the brutal fact that its mainframe business was declining. Under CEO Lou Gerstner, they transformed into a services and consulting business, reviving the company.

4. The Hedgehog Concept:

  • Find your one big thing. Understand what you’re best at.
  • Know what drives your economic engine.
  • Discover what you’re passionate about. Simplicity within the three circles of competence.

Example: Google.

How: Google focused on one big thing: organizing the world’s information. They recognized what they could do best, what drives their economic engine, and what they were passionate about, leading to domination in search technology.

5. Culture of Discipline:

  • Implement a consistent system.
  • Cultivate a strong work ethic.
  • Discipline does not mean bureaucracy. It means a group of dedicated people. They follow the system willingly.

Example: Johnson & Johnson.

How: Their credo, a clear set of ethical guidelines, instilled a culture of discipline. When faced with the Tylenol crisis, they acted decisively, pulling all products off the shelves, aligning with their values.

6. Technology Accelerators:

  • Technology supports your vision. It shouldn’t replace the vision.
  • Apply carefully to boost growth.
  • Good to great companies think differently about tech. It’s a tool, not a solution.

Example: Amazon.

How: Amazon uses technology to accelerate its customer-centric approach, not as the core of its business. Innovations like one-click shopping and Amazon Prime enhance the shopping experience, but the focus remains on customer satisfaction.

7. The Flywheel and the Doom Loop:

  • Momentum builds over time. Small pushes get the flywheel turning.
  • Consistent effort leads to breakthrough. Inconsistency leads to the doom loop.
  • Patience and persistence matter.

Example: Apple.

How: Apple’s consistent focus on innovation and design has built momentum over time. Their continual development of groundbreaking products like the iPhone, iPad, and Mac kept the flywheel turning, leading to sustained success.

8. A Clock Building, Not Time Telling:

  • Build systems that last.
  • Don’t just lead for now. Think of future generations. Leave a lasting legacy.
  • Focus on building, not boasting.

Example: 3M.

How: 3M has fostered a culture of innovation that transcends individual leaders. They encourage employees to spend 15% of their time on creative projects, leading to inventions like Post-it Notes. They’re focused on building systems that last beyond individual brilliance.


Good to Great” is an invaluable guide that explains the complex transformation process using simple and insightful concepts. The book’s principles apply not just to business but to anyone seeking excellence in various aspects of life.

By understanding and implementing these lessons, you set yourself on a path toward lasting success.

Whether you are in the realm of business, education, or personal development, these principles offer a practical roadmap. They will guide you in creating something that is not just good but truly great.

The journey from good to great requires thought, effort, and a commitment to long-term excellence, but it’s a journey well worth taking.