The one-sentence summary

Ignore charismatic leaders, complex strategies and the competition – if you want enduring success, concentrate on having a common sense of purpose.


  • This is the 1994 classic about the successful habits of visionary companies.
  • It uses a 6-year research study to examine companies from their conception, in some cases 100 years ago, to their current position, using a comparison company in each case along the way. All have outperformed the stock market by a factor of fifteen.
  • There are twelve shattered myths about companies and leadership:
  1. It takes a great idea to start a company
  2. Visionary companies require great and charismatic visionary leaders
  3. The most successful companies exist first and foremost to maximize profits
  4. Visionary companies share a common subset of “correct” core values
  5. The only constant is change
  6. Blue-chip companies play it safe
  7. Visionary companies are great places to work, for everyone
  8. Highly successful companies make their best moves by brilliant and complex strategic planning
  9. Companies should hire outside CEOs to stimulate fundamental change
  10. The most successful companies focus primarily on beating the competition
  11. You can’t have your cake and eat it too (the power of AND over OR)
  12. Companies become visionary primarily through “vision statements”
  • None of these are true and the examples explain why.


  • Although this book has taken on revered status, much of it remains helpful and relevant.
  • Given the authority and rigour of the study, it is perhaps surprising that so many companies still don’t pay attention to the findings
  • If you are interested in providing a counterpoint to stodgy corporate approaches, you will probably find convincing evidence here from a respected source


  • It is in some respects out of date given recent economic changes
  • The evidence per company is highly detailed, so if you do not know the company (they are all American) or are not interested in it, then you have to wade through for the bits you want
  • If you read The Halo Effect, you may think the whole study is wrong