Robert's Reviews > Seduced by Success: How the Best Companies Survive the 9 Traps of Winning

Seduced by Success by Robert  J. Herbold
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's review
Aug 25, 2008

it was amazing

One of the most interesting paradigm shifts in recent years involves a paradox: at a time when change is the only constant, precisely the same elements which result in a given company's success can often be the causes of its subsequent decline. That seems to be the core concept in this book in which Robert J. Herbold explains "how the best companies survive the 9 traps of winning." Conversely, many other of the best companies (however "best" may be defined) do not. The traps that Herbold identifies and examines are among the usual suspects whenever a company goes (invoking Jim Collins' terms) "from great to good" or "from good to mediocre":

1. Sticking with yesterday's business model
2. Allowing your products [or services] to become outdated
3. Clinging to your once-successful branding after it becomes stale and dull
4. Ignoring your business processes as they become cumbersome ands complicated
5. Rationalizing your loss of speed and agility
6. Condoning poor performance and letting your star employees languish
7. Getting lulled into a culture of comfort, casualness, and confidence
8. Not confronting turf wars, infighting, and obstructionists
9. Unwittingly providing schizophrenic communications

Of course, falling into and then remaining in any one of these "traps" can have serious, perhaps even fatal consequences. Moreover, failing companies are usually caught in several (if not most) of the nine. Finally, even if a given company escapes from one or more of them, there is no guarantee that it will not falling into one or more later. Hence a variation on the aforementioned paradox: Precisely the same elements which enable a given company to survive or to go "from mediocre to good" can often be the causes of its decline again.

Although all of the companies that Herbold discusses are major corporations (e.g. General Motors, Toyota, IBM, Sony, Wal-Mart and Microsoft), all organizations (including non-profits) can fall into one or more of the nine traps. Brilliantly, Herbold explains how to survive them or avoid them by understanding how others have survived them. To his credit, Herbold spends far less time on the "what" than he does on the "how" and "why" of doing so. Each of his key insights is anchored within a real-world context.

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