Start-Up Poland: The People Who Transformed an Economy

University of Chicago Press
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Poland in the 1980s was filled with shuttered restaurants and shops that bore such imaginative names as “bread,” “shoes,” and “milk products,” from which lines could stretch for days on the mere rumor there was something worth buying. But you’d be hard-pressed to recognize the same squares—buzzing with bars and cafés—today. In the years since the collapse of communism, Poland’s GDP has almost tripled, making it the eighth-largest economy in the European Union, with a wealth of well-educated and highly skilled workers and a buoyant private sector that competes in international markets. Many consider it one of the only European countries to have truly weathered the financial crisis.

As the Warsaw bureau chief for the Financial Times, Jan Cienski spent more than a decade talking with the people who did something that had never been done before: recreating a market economy out of a socialist one. Poland had always lagged behind wealthier Western Europe, but in the 1980s the gap had grown to its widest in centuries. But the corrupt Polish version of communism also created the conditions for its eventual revitalization, bringing forth a remarkably resilient and entrepreneurial people prepared to brave red tape and limited access to capital. In the 1990s, more than a million Polish people opened their own businesses, selling everything from bicycles to leather jackets, Japanese VCRs, and romance novels. The most business-savvy turned those primitive operations into complex corporations that now have global reach.

Well researched and accessibly and entertainingly written, Start-Up Poland tells the story of the opening bell in the East, painting lively portraits of the men and women who built successful businesses there, what their lives were like, and what they did to catapult their ideas to incredible success. At a time when Poland’s new right-wing government plays on past grievances and forms part of the populist and nationalist revolution sweeping the Western world, Cienski’s book also serves as a reminder that the past century has been the most successful in Poland’s history.
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About the author

Jan Cienski is senior policy editor at Politico Europe. He has worked as the Poland correspondent for the Economist and was the Warsaw and Prague bureau chief of the Financial Times.
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Additional Information

Publisher
University of Chicago Press
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Published on
Feb 2, 2018
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Pages
272
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ISBN
9780226306957
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Language
English
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Genres
Business & Economics / Development / Business Development
Business & Economics / Economic History
Business & Economics / Entrepreneurship
Business & Economics / General
History / Europe / Eastern
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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The Challenge
Built to Last, the defining management study of the nineties, showed how great companies triumph over time and how long-term sustained performance can be engineered into the DNA of an enterprise from the verybeginning.

But what about the company that is not born with great DNA? How can good companies, mediocre companies, even bad companies achieve enduring greatness?

The Study
For years, this question preyed on the mind of Jim Collins. Are there companies that defy gravity and convert long-term mediocrity or worse into long-term superiority? And if so, what are the universal distinguishing characteristics that cause a company to go from good to great?

The Standards
Using tough benchmarks, Collins and his research team identified a set of elite companies that made the leap to great results and sustained those results for at least fifteen years. How great? After the leap, the good-to-great companies generated cumulative stock returns that beat the general stock market by an average of seven times in fifteen years, better than twice the results delivered by a composite index of the world's greatest companies, including Coca-Cola, Intel, General Electric, and Merck.

The Comparisons
The research team contrasted the good-to-great companies with a carefully selected set of comparison companies that failed to make the leap from good to great. What was different? Why did one set of companies become truly great performers while the other set remained only good?

Over five years, the team analyzed the histories of all twenty-eight companies in the study. After sifting through mountains of data and thousands of pages of interviews, Collins and his crew discovered the key determinants of greatness -- why some companies make the leap and others don't.

The Findings
The findings of the Good to Great study will surprise many readers and shed light on virtually every area of management strategy and practice. The findings include:

Level 5 Leaders: The research team was shocked to discover the type of leadership required to achieve greatness. The Hedgehog Concept (Simplicity within the Three Circles): To go from good to great requires transcending the curse of competence. A Culture of Discipline: When you combine a culture of discipline with an ethic of entrepreneurship, you get the magical alchemy of great results. Technology Accelerators: Good-to-great companies think differently about the role of technology. The Flywheel and the Doom Loop: Those who launch radical change programs and wrenching restructurings will almost certainly fail to make the leap.

“Some of the key concepts discerned in the study,” comments Jim Collins, "fly in the face of our modern business culture and will, quite frankly, upset some people.”

Perhaps, but who can afford to ignore these findings?

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