Go From Good to Great

Author Collins to address Opening General Session.

July 12, 2010

What do hedgehogs, chickens, flywheels, and a bus have in common?

These business analogies come from Jim Collins in his books, “Good to Great” and “Good to Great in the Social Sectors.”

Companies achieve business success, he says, with a sense of purpose, dedication, and the right mix of people “riding on the bus.”

Collins, known for his expertise in the for-profit business sector, also explores nonprofit successes and draws many parallels. He argues nonprofits shouldn’t aspire to be “more like a business,” as the majority of businesses “fall somewhere between mediocre and good.”

Rather, nonprofits should distinguish between mediocre and good as opposed to business and social enterprises.

Collins claims that at the root of transforming to greatness is the Hedgehog Concept. It states that companies learn how to best achieve favorable results by sticking to their plans, refusing opportunities that don’t help them reach their ultimate goals.

In business, you must adhere to three elements, he says:

1. What you are about;
2. What you do best; and
3. What “best drives your economic engine.”

For nonprofits, the third tenet becomes, “How can we develop a sustainable resource engine to deliver superior performance relative to our mission?”