Turning the Flywheel by Jim Collins – Book Summary

What’s a Flywheel?

In the fall of 2001, the tale begins. Collins coaches Jeff Bezos and a group of Amazonians on the flywheel effect, which holds that company growth has an exponentially accelerating momentum.

In this instance, Collins saw Bezos run with the concept. The Amazon employees created the drivers of their own Flywheel and asked themselves what they needed to do to optimize each aspect of the Amazon flywheel.

As a result, Collin’s design was chosen as the archetypal Flywheel to represent Amazon’s powerful business engine. The monograph illustrates it thus:

(c) 2019 Jim Collins in Turning the Flywheel; A Monograph to Accompany Good to Great.

Many firms fail because they don’t know why they were successful in the first place. Understanding your unique Flywheel’s sequence and components is crucial to success.

The Principle of the Flywheel

You turn a giant heavy flywheel (a series of good decisions supremely well-executed), but even though the movement starts so slow, you can barely see it. You don’t stop. You keep pushing. And eventually, the wheel starts turning, and you get 2, 4, 8, 16, 32 turns. They’re compounding, building on each other. In the Flywheel, you have accumulative momentum.

The Doom Loop

But the Flywheel can turn both ways!

Companies that don’t achieve success instead would respond to poor outcomes. This would lead to new decisions, discoveries, techniques, and so on – chronic inconsistency. This method has no traction, leads to more disappointing outcomes, and necessitates new decisions, progressions, and so forth.

In a downward momentum loop, the comparison businesses lost traction while Good to Great firms gained it. The Doom Loop plagued companies fell and fell, plummeting into a dismal scenario of defeat.

Important things about the Flywheel:  

· The idea is to figure out what works. Make a list of your greatest achievements. Your Flywheel exists in what has proved to be effective and repeatable.

· The sentence that describes the process of making a Flywheel. “Then we can’t help but…” If we do A well, we can’t help but do B, and if we do B well, we can’t help but do C.

· The flywheels in this engine are completely unique, yet they all have a beautiful logic of momentum.


Final words from Jim Collins

“I love the Flywheel. One reason is that it’s a beautiful combination of intellectual research and rigor, and on the other hand, the Flywheel is about energy, momentum, extension, renewal, momentum – and that’s infectious.” – Jim Collins.

About Jim Collins

Jim Collins is the author of Built to Last, Good to Great, and coauthor of The Level 5 Leader. He has also written articles for such magazines as Fortune, Forbes, Harvard Business Review, and Strategy+Business. A graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, Collins spent five years as a commander in the United States Army. He then moved to the corporate world, where he spent more than two decades in leadership positions at three different Fortune 500 companies. In 2001, he retired from his business career to devote himself full-time to writing and teaching.

Jim Collins’s books have sold over 10 million copies and have been translated into 35 languages. His work has been cited in more than 50,000 articles, speeches, and books.

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