Turning the Flywheel: A Monograph to Accompany Good to Great 

Turning the Flywheel: A Monograph to Accompany Good to Great 

by Jim Collins


This is a great 30 page read, 40 pages including the appendices (a brief summary of the major ideas in Collins’ six previous books).  In this monograph, Turning the Flywheel, Jim Collins, adds far more detail to what the flywheel is and how it operates.


Amazon’s flywheel, for example, starts with lots of low priced products, increases number of visits, attracts third party vendors, expands distribution, grows profit, lowers overhead … all of which attracts more customers.  Each step in the cycle drives the flywheel forward.

Start with the Flywheel

In his earlier work, Collins focused on the Big Hairy Audacious Goal followed by the steady turning of the flywheel.  Now, it appears that building the flywheel step by step eventually leads to the seemingly sudden appearance of the big breakthrough goal.

School Turnaround

Collins education example comes from Ware Elementary School in Fort Riley, Kansas.  Deb Gustafson, principal, inherited a school “on improvement.”  Over five years, reading proficiency went from 35% to 96%.  Her flywheel:  attract passionate teachers, build collaborative improvement teams, measure student progress often, improve student learning, enhance reputation … and thereby attract more passionate teachers.  Each step drives the next.

How do you create your flywheel?

Collins suggests several steps:

    • Find replicable successes and build on those

    • Study failed initiatives

    • Compare the two to uncover critical elements of your flywheel

    • Sketch out how each element reinforces the next

    • Limit your flywheel to six or less components

    • Test the flywheel against #1 and #2 above

    • Check to see if it generates passion, excellence and impact

Stick With It

And the sobering reality … “the big winners are those who take the flywheel from ten turns to a billion turns rather than those “who crank through ten turns, start over … only to divert energy into yet another flywheel, then another and another.”  To make the leap from Good to Great … “never – ever – neglect your flywheel.”

Good to Great Recap

The appendix provides a great ten page road map of the great ideas that have made his previous books over-the-top best sellers.

    • Disciplined People

      Get the right leadership and the right people on the bus.

    • Disciplined Thought

      Confront the brutal reality, find your passion and keep engaging

    • Disciplined Action

      Build your flywheel, test it, prove it, keep improving it.

    • Building to Last

      Preserve the core and innovate, stay hungry, get better.

    • 10X Multiplier:

      When you do these things, you grow 10x faster than those around you.

A Great Book to Buy … Read … and Apply!

  • This monograph filled several gaps for me.  It’s not about one best big idea.  It’s figuring out what you are good at, supporting it, growing it, taking it to scale … and then adding on the next best component.
  • Jim Collins was a delight to interview.  He is engaging and interesting and humble.  He shared his immense respect for school leaders and said that business leaders have far more to learn from school leaders than the other way around.
  • This is best book out this year … especially on value per page!  You can read this one on your lunch hour.  And spend the next year mining the insights!


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