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Charles H. Green

Good posting. There are many things to be said about this topic, but one is that "Built to Last" is probably not an obviously good criterion.
If the definition of "good" or "great" companies is merely surival, then the door is open to a lot of companies aren't intended. For example, the old McCrory's Five and Dime stores lasted over 100 years, basically by being very locally driven and getting by. By any normal measure of success, they weren't; they paid low wages, were dingy places, werent all that profitable. But by golly, they did last. 100 years in the retail business is impressive. But probably not what is meant by Collins' title.
But the point isn't to pick on Collins, who of course followed it up with a really good book. My point is to suggest that the criterion for "best" is not all that obvious. And among the assumptions that we should challenge is the one that assumes the continued exisence of a particular corporate entity.
What if the "best" companies were those which invented great products, delivered value to consumers, paid great returns to investors, delivered a great workplace to employees--and then disappeared, whether by acquisition or implosion or any other reason. Should disappearance disqualify a company for inclusion? Why should a corporate entity have to continue in a particular form in order to make someone's best list?
I don't think "lasting" is anywhere near the most important criterion for inclusion on a superlatives list.
And if it's not, then what should be further up on the list?

Jim Voris

Sloth is a virtue for sloths -- meaning if the niche selects for sloth, then that's what will survive. In a market niche that is not very dynamic, or shielded from competition, a company can survive for a long time -- making it look like management is doing a good job. The company is 'built to last' because it occupies a backwater market segment that no one else wants (or it has some kind of monopoly protection from the government (the old At&T for example)). For companies in more dynamic markets, they can survive in the long term only by embracing change as one of their core values. I think Kevin Kelly summarized it simply in a different context in his "Out of Control" book -- evolution selects for those that are good at evolving.

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