How The Mighty Fall: And Why Some Companies Never Give In

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Harper Collins, May 19, 2009 - Business & Economics - 240 pages
4 Reviews

Decline can be avoided.

Decline can be detected.

Decline can be reversed.

Amidst the desolate landscape of fallen great companies, Jim Collins began to wonder: How do the mighty fall? Can decline be detected early and avoided? How far can a company fall before the path toward doom becomes inevitable and unshakable? How can companies reverse course?

In How the Mighty Fall, Collins confronts these questions, offering leaders the well-founded hope that they can learn how to stave off decline and, if they find themselves falling, reverse their course. Collins' research project—more than four years in duration—uncovered five step-wise stages of decline:

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

By understanding these stages of decline, leaders can substantially reduce their chances of falling all the way to the bottom.

Great companies can stumble, badly, and recover.

Every institution, no matter how great, is vulnerable to decline. There is no law of nature that the most powerful will inevitably remain at the top. Anyone can fall and most eventually do. But, as Collins' research emphasizes, some companies do indeed recover—in some cases, coming back even stronger—even after having crashed into the depths of Stage 4.

Decline, it turns out, is largely self-inflicted, and the path to recovery lies largely within our own hands. We are not imprisoned by our circumstances, our history, or even our staggering defeats along the way. As long as we never get entirely knocked out of the game, hope always remains. The mighty can fall, but they can often rise again.


What people are saying - Write a review

Compelling insight for all firms and individuals

User Review  - Robby Stout - Borders

Definitely one of the best business books I've ever read. Jim Collins highlights the stages of failure with a rigorous comparative analysis contrasting companies that fail with similar companies that ... Read full review

User Review - Flag as inappropriate

Easy to read and occasionally thought-provoking, it nevertheless left me feeling unsatisfied, and a cynical reviewer might note that the book feels like an apologia for GOOD TO GREAT, since many of the companies lauded in that classic stumbled and fell in the years following. This book will appeal to fans of Jim Collins, but I'd suggest reading the HBR article rather than the whole book. There's a great book to be written on this topic, but this one isn't it. 


Five Stages of Decline
Hubris Born of Success
Undisciplined Pursuit of More
Denial of risk and Peril
Grasping for Salvation
Capitulation to Irrelevance or Death

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About the author (2009)

Jim Collins is author or coauthor of six books that have sold in total more than ten million copies worldwide, including the bestsellers Good to Great, Built to Last, and How the Mighty Fall. Jim began his research and teaching career on the faculty at Stanford Graduate School of Business, where he received the Distinguished Teaching Award in 1992. He now operates a management laboratory in Boulder, Colorado, where he conducts research, teaches, and consults with executives from the corporate and social sectors.

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