November 8, 2005
News & Opinion: More on Good To Great in Social Sectors
I got my copy of the monograph yesterday and I really like it. Many of the same Good To Great principles apply to both businesses and non-profits. The strength of the piece is how Collins' shows where the differences are.
I honestly think that this is something that everyone should read. Everyone is involved with community groups or a social cause of some sort. It is about taking those efforts from being good to being great.
Here is his author's note from the opening of the book:
During my first year on the Stanford faculty in 1988, I sought out emeritus professor John Gardner for guidance on how I might become a better teacher. Gardner, former Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, founder of Common Cause, and author of the classic text Self-Renewal, stung me with a comment that changed my life.
"It occurs to me, Jim, that you spend too much time trying to be interesting," he said. "Why don't you invest more time at being interested."
I don't know if this monograph will prove interesting to everyone who reads it, but I do know that it results from my growing interest in the social sectors. My interest began for two reasons. First is the surprising reach of our work into the social sectors. I'm generally categorized as a business author, yet a third or more of my readers come from non-business. Second is the sheer joy of learning something new--in this case, about the challenges facing social sector leaders--and puzzling over questions that arise from applying our work to circumstances quite different from business.
I originally intended this text to be a new chapter in future editions of Good To Great. But upon reflection, I concluded that it would be inappropriate to force my readers to buy a second copy of the book just to get access to this piece--and so we decided to create this independent monograph. That said, while this monograph can certainly be read as a stand-alone piece, i've written it to go hand-in-hand with the book, and the greatest value will accrue to those who read the two together.
I do not consider myself an expert on the social sectors, but in the spirit of John Gardner, I am a student. Yet I've become a passionate student. I've come to see that it is simply not good enough to focus solely on having a great business sector. If we only have great companies, we will merely have a prosperous society, not a great one. Economic growth and power are the means, not the definition, of a great nation.