Jim Collins is perhaps best known as the co-author of the seminal business book Built to Last, and author of its successor, Good to Great. His extensive research has revealed that building and nurturing the right culture is a huge factor in the development of companies that are successful over the long haul.
Lately I've been exploring how the Silicon Valley "get big as fast as you can and worry about long-term sustainability later" approach to business has warped our perception of what business leadership is all about. It turns out I'm more than a little late. Way back in the Precambrian Era (March, 1993) before Facebook, before Google, before even Netscape, Collins wrote about what he called The Silicon Valley Paradigm. At its core, the approach that has come to dominate Silicon Valley is based on the assumption that:
the key to starting a successful company is to begin with a good idea (technology, product, market potential, etc.) and ride the growth curve of an attractive product life cycle.
Many great companies were started with a wholly different premise, which is that "the important creation is the company itself and what it stands for." The entrepreneurs who started these companies did so not to create a specific product, but to build companies that would endure.
There is so much in The Silicon Valley Paradigm and Why It Won that is directly applicable to today, but it's also worth contemplating the companies he presents as models of greatness. In the years since 1993, almost all of them have become shadows of their former selves.
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