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Video Clips

"Why smart executives fail" Faculty Chalk Talk at Dartmouth College, October 22, 2005.
The scene: a CEO is celebrated on the cover of Fortune. Soon after, the company is in the midst of a financial fiasco. What went wrong? It seems that top management made some stupid mistakes. The people responsible are almost always intelligent. Why Smart Executives Fail relates the stories of great business disasters and demonstrates
the ways many businesses make themselves vulnerable to failure.
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"On the Record: Syd Finkelstein"
U.S.News & World Report
Sydney Finkelstein advises some of the world's most successful companies on strategy and leadership. His 2003 book, Why Smart Executives Fail, was a bestseller that dug beneath implosions at Tyco, WorldCom, and other titans. He spoke recently with Deputy Business Editor Rick Newman about his latest book, Breakout Strategy: Meeting the Challenge of Double Digit Growth.
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"Why smart executives fail"
Fintra, (Finland) business magazine
What are the warning signs that can alert board members and senior executives that something is potentially very wrong? What are the red flags that need to be attended to, in real time, to avoid the Why Smart Executives Fail syndrome? This article provides some of the answers to these questions, and is a good start to learn more about what an early warning system can do in an organization.
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"Understanding failure"
Across the Board
This article is an interview with Professor Finkelstein that addresses many of the key findings that came out of the research that led to Why Smart Executives Fail.
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"The ABCs of failure: Dartmouth's Sydney Finkelstein focuses on corporate blunders"
Business Week
Why Smart Executives Fail turns business problems upside down. Rather than just look at best practices, companies need to consider "worst practices." The book, and the research it's based on, offer new ways to think about management. A careful look at these ideas suggests new ways to think about professional development.
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"Jason Blair, meet Nicholas Leeson"
The Wall Street Journal
People have been shaking their heads recently over the Jayson Blair reporting scandal at The New York Times. How could top management have let it go on for so long? How could they have missed all the warning signs? What happened at The Times, however, was actually a lot closer to what happened at many of the companies we studied for Why Smart Executives Fail. And that's the lesson everyone missed.
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Internet startups in the new economy
Journal of Business Strategy
It wasn't that long ago that some were arguing the rules of economics no longer applied; that the Internet changed everything. The great wave of Internet startups was playing the game in ways few had contemplated before, and business would never be the same. So, where did they go wrong? What are the lessons to be learned for the startups still in the game, and the many more that have yet to be hatched?
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Cross-border mergers and acquisitions
Financial Times
The globalization of business over the past decade has spawned a search for competitive advantage that is worldwide in scale. Even with the current global business slowdown, there is little doubt that we will see companies return to cross-border mergers and acquisitions as a dominant mode of growth. Why do companies have such a dismal track record in making cross border deals work? What should companies do to increase their odds of success?
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First mover advantage
Handbook of Business Strategy
What happened to first mover advantage? Touted by everyone from venture capitalists to journalists to entrepreneurs, the notion of being first to market was taken as sacrosanct in the Internet economy. Yet, if there is one thing that has become apparent in the short history of the online economy, it is that the holy grail of first mover advantage is as elusive as it is exaggerated.
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The rise and fall of Iridium
Organizational Dynamics
In mid-1998, Iridium was one of the darlings of Wall Street having more than tripled in stock price in less than a year. Armed with expertise and over 1,000 patents, the company provided global telephony via a network of low-Earth-orbiting satellites. Just one year later, Iridium was bankrupt. What went wrong? How did Iridium shift from being a leading-edge technological marvel to a billion-dollar business blunder?
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The inside scoop on corporate failure
Tuck Today
Why Smart Executives Fail is able to deliver such a definitive and original analysis, with so much supporting evidence, because Sydney Finkelstein's research program is far-and-away the most extensive and meticulous ever conducted on this subject.
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Additional Articles:

"Zombie businesses: how to learn from their mistakes," Leader to Leader, No. 32, Spring 2004

Article in Spain's leading business newspaper, La Vanguardia, December 16, 2004

"Why do smart business executives run their companies into the ground?" Dartmouth Alumni Magazine, July/August 2004

Book review, International Herald Tribune, April 3-4, 2004

Article, France's leading business newspaper, Le Revenu, April 2, 2004

"Why smart executives fail," The Chief, November 2003

"Feed your head," Fortune July 7, 2003

Corporate Mistakes
Causes of Failure

Case Studies
General Motors and the great automation solution
This is the story of GM's quest for supremacy by replacing people with robotics, what gave rise to this strategy, and why it was ill conceived from the very start. The lessons that emerge from an analysis of a near-$45 billion investment strategy hold resonance today as much as they did in the 1980s.
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WorldCom: Who's really gonna notice $9 billion dollars anyway?
What was behind WorldCom's $9 billion fraud? Why did the smart executives running this company fail? What were the warning signs that indicated trouble was brewing?
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"Family-First" mentality topples Adelphia
How appropriate that Adelphia was named after the Greek word for brothers? Their "blood is thicker than business" ethics brought down one of the top cable companies in the United States. What were some of the warning signs that could have clued us into what was really going on within the secure and private walls of Adelphia?
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