DtM Book Review: Good to Great and the Social Sector

We love Jim Collins' Good to Great and the Social Sectors.  At just 35 pages, it's the best kind of business book: all content and no filler.  In analyzing the factors that create great social enterprises, Collins discovered that the most salient differences exist not between business and the social sector, but between great organizations and mediocre ones.  In summary, great social sector organizations, like great businesses, display a "relentless culture of discipline."

The whole book is worth a read for Collins’ ability to go beyond “eat your vegetables” business platitudes, but there are two ideas in particular that have made a big difference at DtM.  First is Jim Collins' definition of "greatness," which offers a useful yardstick for any social enterprise.  Great organizations (1) offer superior performance relative to their mission, (2) are built for resilience and lasting endurance and (3) offer distinctive impact and capabilities that could not easily be filled by any other institution. 

Second, Collins argues that where business is driven by an economic engine, great social enterprises are driven by the three elements of their "resource engine": money, time and brand.  Every enterprise needs to build a sustainable cash flow, but social enterprises also depend on volunteers who will donate their time and expertise.  Brand represents an organization's ability to "cultivate a deep well of emotional goodwill and mindshare of potential supporters."  It isn’t enough for social enterprises to chase funding and build an operating cash reserve--a great organization has to carefully cultivate its community and its reputation.

Fantastic book, check it out!  And if you buy the book through the links in this email, Amazon will send part of the proceeds to DtM!  [Good to Great and the Social Sectors]