What is it?
The Flywheel Effect is the idea that sustained success and momentum in organizations are achieved through consistent, cumulative efforts that gradually build up like a spinning flywheel.
Where does it come from?
The Flywheel Effect is a concept introduced by Jim Collins in his book “Good to Great.” It describes a phenomenon that explains how organizations can build and sustain momentum over time through a series of consistent and cumulative actions, much like the turning of a flywheel.
How does the model work?
Here’s an explanation of the Flywheel Effect:
- The Flywheel Analogy: Imagine a massive, heavy flywheel, initially at rest. To set it in motion, you must apply a lot of effort and energy. Initially, it’s hard to get it moving, but as you exert consistent force, the flywheel starts to turn slowly.
- Consistent Effort: The key to the Flywheel Effect is that you keep applying consistent, persistent effort to turn the flywheel. Even though it’s challenging at first, you don’t give up. You continue to push and push.
- Cumulative Momentum: As the flywheel turns, it begins to pick up speed gradually. The cumulative effect of your consistent effort becomes evident. At this point, the flywheel is still moving because of your ongoing input, but it’s also starting to generate its own momentum.
- Breakthrough: Eventually, after sustained effort, the flywheel reaches a breakthrough point where it’s spinning rapidly and effortlessly. It’s generating significant momentum on its own, and it’s much easier to maintain its speed than it was to start it in the first place.
In the context of organizations, the Flywheel Effect represents the idea that achieving greatness and sustainable success isn’t typically the result of one big, transformative action. Instead, it’s a product of consistently making the right choices, taking the right actions, and persistently working towards your goals over time. Key points about the Flywheel Effect:
- Consistency: The consistent application of effort, even if small, is crucial in building momentum.
- Cumulative Impact: Small gains and improvements made over time accumulate and contribute to the overall success.
- Breakthrough: With enough persistence and time, an organization can reach a point where it experiences a significant breakthrough and enjoys sustained success.
The Flywheel Effect encourages leaders and organizations to focus on long-term, sustained efforts and not to expect immediate, dramatic results. It reinforces the idea that great organizations build momentum through a series of disciplined actions and decisions, which eventually lead to lasting success. As quoted on the site below: “Big things happen by pushing on a giant, heavy flywheel. You start pushing in an intelligent and consistent direction, and after a lot of work you get one giant, slow, creaky turn, but you don’t stop. You keep pushing and you eventually get two turns and four and sixteen and thirty-two and sixty-four and one hundred and one thousand; pushing; cumulative, consistent momentum; and at one point it’s one hundred thousand and then a million turns in that flywheel. Big things happen because you do a bunch of little things supremely well that compound over time. This is what we learned. We see tremendous consistency in any truly great enterprise. The signature of mediocrity is not an unwillingness to change—although, and we’ll get to this, if you don’t change, you become irrelevant—but the true signature of mediocrity is chronic inconsistency”.