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Friday, April 18, 2008


Jim Collins authored this book after his earlier work “Built to Last”, but he advises readers to consider this work as a prequel to his earlier book. While Built to last was about visionary, lasting organizations, “Good to Great” is about mediocre organizations which leaped to greatness.

A typical Jim Collins book…..extremely well researched over years, this book elucidates certain concepts using 11 companies which satisfied a typical pattern – “fifteen-year cumulative stock returns at or below the general stock market, punctuated by a transition point, then cumulative returns at least three times the market over the next fifteen years". As in his earlier book, Jim Collins has also maintained a list of comparative companies.

Jim Collins has beautifully written this book with the information of a business book and the sensitivity of an artistic creation. In this process, he has explored appealing concepts, which he discovered to be the key constituents of each of the Good to Great companies. Some of the findings are –

Leaders and the way they think - (early build up to greatness)
(1) Level five leaders (who build enduring greatness through a mix of personal humility and professional will)
(2) Hedgehog concept (ask - what you are passionate about, what you can be the best in the world at, what drives your economic engine – and then do those things which answer all the three questions)
(3) Stockdale Paradox – (retain faith that you will prevail in the end, regardless of difficulties and at the same time confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be)
(4) First Who, then What (first find the right people, then think what to do)

Breakthrough and leap to greatness
(5) Flywheel building momentum (incremental and cumulative efforts, which help the system to get momentum)
(6) Culture of discipline (culture of discipline as different from tyranny)
(7) Technology accelerators (aligning technology with the strategy of the organization as streamlined by the hedgehog concept)

Jim Collins has consummately merged the concepts of this book with that of his earlier “Built to Last”.

In this book, Jim Collins doesn’t restrict his thoughts to the corporate world but links the concept of greatness with a subtle sensitiveness….greatness is not about being huge…its about discovering excellence and meaningfulness in work….Nor is greatness limited to the corporate…it can be discovered in every aspect of life.

Felt tempted to quote the last paragraph of the book -

“When all these pieces come together, not only your work move towards greatness, but so does your life. For in the end, it is impossible to have a great life unless it is a meaningful life. And it is difficult to have a meaningful life without meaningful work. Perhaps then, you might gain that rare tranquility that comes from knowing that you have had a hand in creating something of intrinsic excellence that makes a contribution. Indeed, you might even gain that deepest of all satisfactions knowing that your short time here on this earth has been well spent and that it mattered.”

Wednesday, April 09, 2008


Spring time….lovely weather….wide roads penetrating the deserts…..a three hour long drive from Abu Dhabi to Dubai and finally, I was in the Dubai airport to get back home….

The car stopped not far from the airport entrance and the sixty-something year old, kurta clad wrinkle faced, bearded person, who has been driving this vehicle got down to pick my luggage. Somehow I managed to dissuade him not to pick my luggage. He walked to the trolley section and got one trolley where I loaded my baggage. Then shook hands with him and waved him goodbye…

I still had three hours in the airport….did some minor shopping and then relaxed in the airport….one of my shortest trips…just three days….kept on reminiscing the last three days….

A unique mix….both Indians and Pakistanis form an integral chunk of population of this part of the Arab world…the deserts…the classiest buildings and towers…the Dubai FM…and the even the Karachi Durbar (the popular Pakistani restaurant in Dubai)….and the drives…especially the last one…from Abu Dhabi to Dubai....and the chitchat I had with the driver…

I was tired and would have rather preferred to take a nap during the drive…but then the driver asked me something “Aap Bombay se hain?”….I gave a reflexive nod and asked him if he was a native of one of the Emirates…There was a change in the expression of his face…he looked down…and stammered…nahin, hum Pakistan se hain, 20 saal se yahin pe hain…Do saal mein ek baar Pakistan jaate hain.

Somehow the conversation proceeded and I enjoyed talking with this person…Ahmed was his name and I addressed him as “Ahmad Bhai”. Perhaps I am too young to address him this way, but then I couldn’t think of a better way to address him. He kept on talking and I kept on listening….He talked about India….the British…he talked about India and Pakistan…..the Indo-Pak wars…the politicians of the two countries….the people of the two countries…..his experience in Dubai…languages like Arabic and Urdu….

Hum to ek hi kaum ke log hain…Janat se bhi khoobsurat hai Hindustan aur Pakistan….lekin kya karein….that was how he started his conversation….his hatred for the British and the politicians was evident….

Once he was out of the Indo-Pak issue, he talked about the beautiful Arabic language…the rich Arab world…. about his life in Dubai…his family in Pakistan.
Finally, we entered the Dubai downtown and he concentrated on his driving.

Almost one and half month after, as I sit down to pen down this experience, the wrinkled face of that old Pakistani driver is clearly visible. The three hour long drive from Abu Dhabi to Dubai would have been lost in the memory lane as just another drive but for this Pakistani driver.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008


Maverick (by Ricardo Semler) - Was it about doing business in the unreal world of Brazil….or was it about a “quirky laboratory” (read the company Semco) run by a few impudent and iconoclastic managers. Its about both, each intertwined within the other.
It is about a distinct way of running a company, Its neither socialist, nor is it purely capitalist, it’s the third way – “ a more humane, trusting, productive, exhilarating and in every sense rewarding way. As Ricardo closes the book – “ To forget socialism, capitalism, just in time deliveries, salary surveys, and the rest of it, and to concentrate on building organizations that accomplish the most difficult of all challenges: to make people look forward to coming to work in the morning.”

The author claims that this is not a business book, nevertheless, I feel this book should be among the must read lists of all business students. It’s to understand the iconoclastic methods of Ricardo Semler, wherein he creates a system within Semco, where the employees choose their bosses as well as their own salaries. The system was strong enough to successfully survive the volatile Brazilian economy and inflation (which often went as high as 400%).

Monday, April 07, 2008


"Blue Ocean Strategy" is an exceptional book by W.C.Kim and Renee Mauborgne.
“Giving the people what they want is fundamentally and disastrously wrong. The people don’t know what they want …Give them something better”

Red oceans are all the industries in existence today—the known market space as understood today. Blue oceans, in contrast, denote all the industries not in existence today.

Blue Ocean strategy is nothing new. It has been existent over the ages. Many successful organizations and individuals have followed this strategy in the past. “Creating something new” is the simplest way in which I can sum up the philosophy of this book. In this book, the authors have just formalized the concept in a great way.

According to the authors, there is hardly any attractive or unattractive industry per se.
Blue Ocean can be created by reinventing, thinking out of box, creating new markets, and converting non customers into customers. The authors also stress the importance of consecutive rounds of blue ocean creation. Blue Ocean strategy is not a static achievement but a dynamic process, which can be created both by industry incumbents and new entrants.

“Value addition” is perhaps one of the most powerful phrases used during the business school lectures. This book speaks of something called “Value innovation”. Value innovators achieve a leap in value by creating new wealth rather than at the expense of competitors in the traditional sense. The concept is based on a non-zero sum game.

The authors have elucidated the concept using lot of examples and have suggested frameworks and models. Both conventional cases (like Model T of Ford and NYPD’s legendary chief Bratton) and numerous big and small organizations are explained in detail

The authors have created jargons (like “Placing kingpins in the fish bowl” and “Angels and devils”), which I am sure are quite popular already.

The basic theme of the book can be summed up as follows -

(1) Reconstruct the market boundaries (Look across alternative industries, strategic groups within industries, chain of buyers , complementary products, emotional appeal of buyers and finally time)
(2) Reach beyond the existing demand
(3) Get the strategic sequence right (exceptional utility, strategic pricing and target costing and adoption)

The authors have used the concept of strategy canvas where they study an organization with respect to its competitors. What differentiates a successful organization is its focus and divergence from the competitors well defined by a compelling tagline.