Book Review: "How the Mighty Fall & Why Some Companies Never Give In" by Jim Collins


Posted on May 26, 2009 by Blake Leath

Jim Collins' (or, ahem, Collins's, if I am to be contemporarily correct) reputation is beyond reproach, but I must say, his tendency to convert what should rightly be a 'snack' into a bloating 'meal' is becoming wearisome. (Call me jaundiced rather than scathing, but I expect better from Collins. One could glean more insights from a playground, yet he's been rubbing elbows for two decades with the world's best and brightest and this is all we get?)

His latest book is just a 200-page exposition on the 4,000-year-old idiom (and timeless truth) "pride comes before the fall."

No doy. It took him 5 years and thousands of interviews to determine this... again?

Consultants get a bad rap because of such swill. It's like the client asking, "What time is it?" and the consultant responding, "May I borrow your watch for a moment?"

Collins's 'illuminating, revelatory, and epiphanic' stages of How the Mighty Fall include such nose-on-the-face nail-biters as:

Stage 1: Hubris Born of Success
Stage 2: Undisciplined Pursuit of More
Stage 3: Denial of Risk and Peril
Stage 4: Grasping for Salvation
Stage 5: Capitulation to Irrelevance or Death 

I think I get it. We all do. Pride, Excess, Denial, Demise. Hmmmm... sounds like a combination of VH1's Behind the Music, Kubler-Ross, the Weight-Watchers/Slim-Fast methodology, and Common Sense. Hardly worth $25.

His parting shot, captured on the back cover, [almost] says it all, "Whether you prevail or fail, endure or die, depends more on what you do to yourself than on what the world does to you."

Yes indeed, I'm responsible for Me. Got it. I'll try to remember that.

I'm confident that Collins's next book will be better; I think How the Mighty Fall is simply his Blink1. (For the record, both Built to Last and Good to Great were, to my way of thinking, exceptional.) Publishers have a way of teasing books out of best selling authors like Collins and Gladwell, and oftentimes before there is a book... and sometimes even when there is no book. (I know this is all very doorman-critiques-Bach, so far be it from me to judge, but alas, these are my two cents. Take 'em at face value.)

Publisher's full synopsis


This week as I travel, I'll be reading The World Without Us, written in 2007 by Alan Weisman. I have high expectations for this book, and hope to confirm them in my next review. More then; make it a great week.

1Sorry, but I thought Blink was as 'worthless' as The Tipping Point was 'priceless.' I mean, "thin slicing," come on. Talk about making a snack into a meal! Since when are the notions of 'go with your gut, use your instincts, and trust your first impressions' noteworthy? The Tipping Point was excellent, and Outliers is arguably the best social-science book of the last five years, but I thought Blink was much ado about nothing.