A passionate rock climber, business thinker Jim Collins is the author of numerous business bestsellers including Good to Great, Good to Great and the Social Sectors, Built to Last, How the Mighty Fall, and Great by Choice. Now, he presents the world with a short but insightful work – Turning the Flywheel; A Monograph to Accompany Good to Great.
What’s a Flywheel?
The story begins in the Autumn of 2001. The dot-com bust has Collins coaching Jeff Bezos and a team of Amazonians on the flywheel effect: the concept that business achieve unstoppable momentum analogous to a flywheel gaining rotational speed with each nudge – think of a potter’s wheel.
In this case, Collins witnessed Bezos take the concept and run with it. The Amazonians came up with the drivers of their particular flywheel, and asked themselves – what do we need to do to optimize each component of the Amazon flywheel?
The result? An archetypal flywheel describing Amazon’s powerful business engine. Collin’s sketches it out in the monograph:
(c) 2019 Jim Collins in
Turning the Flywheel; A Monograph to Accompany Good to Great.
Over time, many companies fail because they don’t really know why they were successful in the first place. The key to success is to understand the sequence and components of your unique flywheel.
Collins shows the reader that this applies to all manner and types of organizations – from small companies, to health care organizations, to non-profits, and even arts organizations.
How to Build Your Flywheel
Most importantly, this monograph serves as a guide to help you construct your own flywheel. Collins describes seven steps in some detail (this alone is worth buying the book!). Once you understand the components of your flywheel (you shouldn’t have more that six apparently), you can test them against Collins’ Hedgehog Concept.
Ah, the “quiet ping of truth”!
Here’s Collins himself to give you a quick summary:
And what happens if you don’t get your flywheel right?
In Collins’ research for How the Mighty Fall, they found that death comes in five stages:
(1) Hubris Born of Success,
(2) Undisciplined Pursuit of More,
(3) Denial of Risk and Peril,
(4) Grasping for Salvation, and
(5) Capitulation to Irrelevance or Death.
Collins points out that when companies fall into Stage 4, they fall into a doom loop, the exact opposite of the flywheel. It’s at this stage that companies grasp at the proverbial straws: charismatic saviors, untested strategies, uncalibrated cannonballs, cultural revolutions, “game-changing” acquisitions, transformative technologies, radical restructurings etc. etc.
I’m thinking of several companies right now, and even a few, uh, countries.
What will it take to find your flywheel? Read the book.
Jenny Cheung is a freelance marketer and project manager based in Texas.