Somewhere along the way, a book has probably changed your life

Maybe it was a spiritual or religious text that gave you more guidance during a major life obstacle. 

Perhaps a children's storybook inspired you to enter your current career.

Or, if you're Jeff Bezos, one book helped you make billions of dollars.

In a recent podcast with Kara Swisher, author and former Stanford professor Jim Collins discussed his relationship with Bezos, and how one of his very own business books changed the game for Amazon at a time when it had not yet turned a profit.

Back in 2001, Amazon was just four years old--struggling to get its footing after the dot-com bust. Looking to Collins for advice, Bezos phoned the author and eventually invited him over to visit the Amazon campus.

Collins met with Bezos and other Amazon executives and discussed the core ideas from his upcoming book, Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don't, which was published later that year. 

Collins covered at length the main focus of Good to Great--the idea that business growth and success can be viewed like a giant flywheel. What a company spends its time doing, explained Collins, should be concerned with developing and building momentum.

Causal linkage is the key here--Collins's work suggested that a company should focus on building one thing in order drive another. 

"If you can get the compounding momentum of your flywheel in a world that wants you to do something quick and overnight, it's an enormously powerful thing," Collins said.

With the wisdom of Good to Great in hand, Bezos and his team at Amazon were able to make necessary strategic changes to the business in order to set their own flywheel up for success.

After meeting with Collins, Amazon shifted from focusing on short-term profits to instead concentrating on sustainable long-term growth. The company then successfully turned its first profit in the last quarter of 2001.

Published on: Aug 12, 2019
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