Great by Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos, and Luck--Why Some Thrive Despite Them All
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Great by Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos, and Luck--Why Some Thrive Despite Them All

4.05 of 5 stars 4.05  ·  rating details  ·  4,437 ratings  ·  290 reviews
The new question
Ten years after the worldwide bestseller Good to Great, Jim Collins returns with another groundbreaking work, this time to ask: Why do some companies thrive in uncertainty, even chaos, and others do not? Based on nine years of research, buttressed by rigorous analysis and infused with engaging stories, Collins and his colleague, Morten Hansen, enumerate the...more
ebook, 320 pages
Published October 11th 2011 by HarperBusiness (first published January 1st 2011)
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Morgan
It's really 183 pages (the rest is just research notes). The whole book is summarized on page 175. There's some interesting anecdotes and the ideas make sense, but this is a very slight (as in not very deep) book. What makes a company great is that they do deep analysis of the business, prepare, take advantage of success without endangering the company, re-evaluate periodically, and work steadily for success, making adjustments if necessary.
Nicole
The fourth book in the series of business management studies by Jim Collins and his colleagues. Built to Last was the first, followed by Good to Great and How the Mighty Fall.

In a quote from the book jacket, Great by Choice is the result of a study of "companies that rose to greatness - beating their industry indexes by a minimum of ten times over fifteen years - in environments characterized by big forces and rapid shifts that leaders could not predict or control." According to the authors, the...more
Loy Machedo

What were some of the most shocking / memorable incidents you can recollect since the last 10 years?
• 9/11?
• The Financial Meltdown? Lehman Brothers? Billions getting wiped out?
• The iPod, iPad, iPhone revolution?

A lot has happened in the last 10 years.

Giants who were invincible are now forever invisible.
The corporations with abundant financial health are today on a dying life support system.
The mortal legends whom we always remembered have become the immortal legacies we will never forget.

So mu...more
Keith
All this certainly makes sense, but it could have been put into a white paper instead of a book. I've only read this and Good to Great, but the other two books are mentioned quite frequently. In total, I think Collins' research points out the essential things that make companies great, but I'm not sure they can be replicated by most companies. At the heart of companies that Collins identifies as great, are great leaders. Not talking necessarily about charismatic leaders, but those still, these a...more
Chad Warner
Jan 18, 2012 Chad Warner rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Chad by: Holland Chamber of Commerce
This book is an engaging exploration of why some companies become great while others don't, despite experiencing similar uncertainty, chaos, and “luck”. It shows that greatness depends on action and discipline, not circumstance or luck. Essentially, success depends more on what we do than what the world does to us. This finding is encouraging and empowering, since we often feel that we’re at the mercy of forces outside our control.

I liked the point that one of the most important forms of luck is...more
Mike Ogilvie
In some ways Great by Choice is similar to other books I've read on running a business. The advice and strategies are spot-on and undeniably the right course of action if you want your business to become great (particularly through turbulent times). In other ways, this book is much better - it deals with more fundamental aspects of how to sustain a business, the importance of preparation, and overall a general attitude that should be adopted.

The core concept of the book revolves around preparin...more
Karen Jett
This book answers the question why some companies thrive while others grow sporadically when facing the same economic conditions.

Jim Collins breaks it down into 5 basic strategies:
10Xers
20 Mile March
Fire Bullets, Then Cannonballs
Leading above the Death Line
SMaC

The two that were most memorable and important to me (though they are all intertwined in the end) are:
Fire bullets, then cannonballs and SMac.

The bullets / cannonballs analogy has to do with responding to opportunities. The great companie...more
Joe Robles
We live in chaotic business times. Wouldn't it be great to have a guide book on how to handle things? Well, here it is.

I love when I read a book, and it inspires me to read other books. I've never wanted to read about the race to the South Pole, but now I do. Climbing Everest, never interested me before, now I'm adding books to my queue.

The biggest takeaway from this book is that preparation is important. You can't be prepared for every disaster, but being ready for *A* disaster will help you su...more
Joel
Doesn't everyone choose to be great? Not even close. You might say it's the difference between wanting and being. In Great by Choice, Collins continues his search for the source of business greatness. Much of the book centers on what it takes to be a "10Xer"---a leader or business that demonstrates a level of success multiples greater than peers.

Three concepts dominate: productive paranoia, empirical creativity, and fanatic discipline, which are bound in the middle by ambitious leaders. Producti...more
Tom
Collins, Jim and Morten T. Hansen (2011) Great by Choice, Harper Business, New York, NY. In this book, Jim Collins compares 7 companies that have performed extraordinarily well during times of great turbulence and uncertainty, while 7 comparison companies in the same industries under the same conditions were not able to perform as well. He calls the high-performing companies the “10Xers” because they outperform comparison companies by an average of 10 times better. The practices of the 7 compani...more
Shaun
This was a quick read for me and very inspiring. I've loved the other Jim Collins' books, including Good to Great, which is a must read for anyone in business. In this book he compares companies that have strived in uncertainty, or companies that did 10 times better than most companies in the same timeframe. He calls these companies 10Xers and they are as follows: Amgen, Biomet, Intel, Microsoft, Progressive Insurance, Southwest Airlines and Stryker. He also relates the story of Roald Amundsen's...more
Rohan
I wish I had not read Black Swan and other books by Authors like Malcolm Gladwell. Because even though there are some real good points throughout this book and even though I like Jim Collins, most of the concepts throughout the book sounded repetitive to me. And even worst is the fact that I started questioning almost every research the Author claims to have done to come to the conclusions he has.

This feeling stayed with me for most of the book: Things he talks about AMD vs Intel and about Micr...more
Jennifer
It usually takes some persistence for me to build momentum enough to read books in this genre. This one was recommended by a mentor at just the right time. There were many kernels of wisdom and interesting takeaways from Collins’ research. If you are interested in leadership, this is a read I recommend. “Greatness is not primarily a matter of circumstance; greatness is first and foremost a matter of conscious choice and discipline.”

SPOILER ALERT: I chose to give the following synopsis as part of...more
Nick Brown
Wow another classic from Jim Collins! Great by Choice is a definite read for anybody trying to make an effect change in the world through organizations and companies.

This time around Jim is joined by University of California Berkeley Business Professor Morten Hansen as they work to answer the question, "Why do some companies thrive in uncertainty, even chaos, and others do not?" To answer this question both Collins and Morten use the matched-pair case method in which they pair a 10Xer or high fl...more
Jane
The concepts in this book are solid. The text seemed somewhat repetitive. Not only that, but just about all of their findings about what distinguishes companies that blow away the competition even in tough times are simply rigorous application of the theory of what works. Zoom out, zoom in? Use both Sensing and Intuition. SMaC? Keeping what works is the strength of those who prefer Introversion and Sensing, and further, is often seen as "resistance" by leaders with other preferences. I've never...more
Beth
This is one of my favorite business books! I love how he references Roald Amundsen and Robert Scott, the arctic explorer to show the differences in choices they made. One made choices that that took his team to death, and the other made very different choices and led his team to be the first to reach the South Pole. Seeing those small decisions were so transferable to choices we make each and every day.
Sheila
A respected colleague of mine recommended this book to me and I thought it was a wonderful read!

Collins and Hansen make compelling arguments as to why certain companies (of similar industry, age, and circumstances as their counterparts) outperform others over 10 times. These companies (called the 10xers) possess certain traits that have resulted in success.

These are:
Fanatic Discipline (demonstrating the same level of discipline through good times and bad to maintain a level-headed approach to...more
Dan Graham
Some of the takeaways were decent but I had a really hard time with a lot of the jumps Collins makes without good data explanations. Maybe the data is there in the background but a lot of his conclusions seems forced and without solid logic.
Samuel Premkumar
Great, "back-to-basics" book. No MBAish clutter, words and phrases. Felt like a Japanese book....
Fanatic discipline(process), Empirical creativity (thinking) and productive paranoia(planning)
Hence a nice back to the basic book..
Jimmy
I really like the entire series of these books. While they are not super entertaining, they actually do contain some good "meat" that you can apply to your business rather than so much of the fluff that's out there.
Patrick
This book is a supplement to Collins other works, Built to Last, Good to Great, and How the Mighty Fall.

In this project, he and his co-author, Morton Hamilton, examine how companies fare and even thrive in industries that are rife with uncertainty, chaos, and wild changes. They then found the common characteristics of those companies that helped them exceed their industry average by more than 10X.

I enjoyed hearing how companies took their futures into their own hands. I enjoyed hearing how they...more
Anthony
I thought it had some good information but tended to repeat some of the topics from Good to Great.
Laura
The authors of "Good to Great" penned this book some while after the former. It is, in some ways, a follow up, but I think they mainly wanted to target the extreme cases of explosive success for companies like Apple, Progressive, Microsoft and Southwest Airlines. I enjoyed learning about the unique traits these CEO's like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs displayed - one example being prepared paranoia. Much like an expedition leader hiking with his team through Antarctica, these CEO's prepare for the w...more
Gloria Denoon
This book aims to answer the question: in a society of instantaneous change and uncertainty, why do some companies achieve greatness while others don’t? Using a historical comparative approach, the authors identify 7 success companies, called 10X cases. 10X leadership includes “a triad of core behaviors:” fanatic discipline, empirical creativity, and productive paranoia. In addition, 10X leaders are characterized by level 5 ambition (stems from a previous book, Good to Great), i.e., drive that p...more
Jeff
I was a little disappointed with this book, probably because I had such high expectations especially after Good to Great and How the Mighty Fall. Still, it was a really good read.

Some take-aways:

The book probes this question: Why do some companies thrive in uncertainty, even chaos, and others do not?

Some myths and contrary findings:

Myth: Successful leaders in a turbulent world are bold, risk-seeking visionaries.
Contrary Finding: The best leaders studied did not have a visionary ability to pr...more
Ryan Agrimson
Once again Jim Collins creates a compelling case. He piggybacks on his research from the first three books "Built to Last," "Good to Great," and "How the Mighty Fall." Collins and Hansen teamed up to find out why some companies seemed to thrive during turbulent times while its competitors plummeted. Their attention to detail is unparalleled. An early analogy in the book is told through the story of Amundsen and Scott, two adventurers seeking to be the first to set foot on the South Pole in the e...more
Jenn
Key Learnings:

1. Great companies observed what worked, figured out why it worked, and built upon proven foundations. (Pg. 9)
2. Great companies were more disciplined, more empirical and more paranoid. (Pg. 9)
3. A trump card for success is the ability to scale innovation, to blend creativity with discipline. (Pg. 10)
4. Just because your environment is rocked by dramatic changed does not mean that you should inflict radical change upon yourself. (Pg. 10)
5. "You don't wait until you're in an unexpec...more
Lucas
Study of seven companies (10Xers) and their direct comparisons during a period of uncertainty.
1) The enterprise sustained truly spectacular results for an era of 15+ years relative to the general stock market and relative to its industry.
2) The enterprise achieved these results in a particularly turbulent environment, full of events that were uncontrollable, fast-moving, uncertain, and potentially harmful.
3) The enterprise began its rise to greatness from a position of vulnerability, being young...more
Bob
Collins and Hansen contend that great companies aren't great because of lucky breaks but rather by choice, particularly disciplined choices. Their research looked at 7 pairs of companies in environments of great change. In each pair, one performed at 10X the average return on the stock market while others simply tracked with the overall market. Here's what they found distinguished the 10X performers:

1. They were committed to the 20 mile march in good times and bad. They didn't overreach when thi...more
Craig Dube
Jim Collins continues to write some very good books on business leadership and factors of success. His latest work Great By Choice looks at what are some of the themes and factors that make some companies successful through turbulent times, while others lag or fall apart completely. He does this by picking 7 different companies that have maintained performance 10 times the market average and comparing them to 7 different companies in the same field/market, who failed to achieve anywhere near tha...more
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

Jim Collins is a student and teacher of enduring great companies — how they grow, how they attain superior performance, and how good companies can become great companies. Having invested over a decade of research into the topic, Jim has authored or co-authored four books, i...more
More about Jim Collins...
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