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

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Ten years after the worldwide bestseller Good to Great , Jim Collins returns withanother groundbreaking work, this time to ask: why do some companies thrive inuncertainty, even chaos, and others do not? Based on nine years of research,buttressed by rigorous analysis and infused with engaging stories, Collins andhis colleague Morten Hansen enumerate the principles for building a truly greatenterprise in unpredictable, tumultuous and fast-moving times. This book isclassic Collins: contrarian, data-driven and uplifting.

183 pages, Kindle Edition

First published January 1, 2011

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About the author

James C. Collins

39 books2,132 followers
Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name.

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, including the classic BUILT TO LAST, which has been a fixture on the Business Week best seller list for more than six years, and has been translated into 29 languages. His work has been featured in Fortune, The Wall Street Journal, Business Week, Harvard Business Review, and Fast Company.

Jim’s book, GOOD TO GREAT: Why Some Companies Make the Leap ... And Others Don’t, attained long-running positions on the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Business Week best seller lists, has sold 3 million hardcover copies since publication and has been translated into 35 languages, including such languages as Latvian, Mongolian and Vietnamese.

His most recent book, HOW THE MIGHTY FALL: And Why Some Companies Never Give In, was published on May 19, 2009.

Driven by a relentless curiosity, Jim began his research and teaching career on the faculty at Stanford Graduate School of Business, where he received the Distinguished Teaching Award in 1992. In 1995, he founded a management laboratory in Boulder, Colorado, where he now conducts research and teaches executives from the corporate and social sectors. Jim holds degrees in business administration and mathematical sciences from Stanford University, and honorary doctoral degrees from the University of Colorado and the Peter F. Drucker Graduate School of Management at Claremont Graduate University.

Jim has served as a teacher to senior executives and CEOs at over a hundred corporations. He has also worked with social sector organizations, such as: Johns Hopkins Medical School, the Girl Scouts of the USA, the Leadership Network of Churches, the American Association of K-12 School Superintendents, and the United States Marine Corps. In 2005 he published a monograph: Good to Great and the Social Sectors.

In addition, Jim is an avid rock climber and has made one-day ascents of the North Face of Half Dome and the Nose route on the South Face of El Capitan in Yosemite Valley. He continues to climb at the 5.13 grade.

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5 stars
8,195 (41%)
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3,358 (17%)
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440 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 744 reviews
Profile Image for Loy Machedo.
233 reviews195 followers
February 15, 2012

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 much has changed I must add.

And that is what Jim Collins book ‘Great by Choice’ does – recount, recollect and remember those companies, corporations and conglomerates that have survived, sustained and synchronized their way to success.

In his classic fashion of an exhaustive research of reviewing 20,400 companies with 7,000 historical documents and cutting them down to 11 fixed criterions, Jim along with Morten Hansen – a faculty member at Harvard Business School spare no effort in coming up with bold new theories and thought provoking concepts.

The foundation of this book is based on the following premise:
• Uncertainty is permanent,
• The worst will always be round the corner,
• Chaotic times are normal,
• Sudden great fortune is always dangerous
• Change is accelerating,
• Instability will characterize the rest of our lives

The central question this book adopts:
• Why do some thrive in the face of immense uncertainty, and others do not?

The book boils down to three core behaviors:
1. Fanatic Discipline:
• Consistent action based on core values, goals, and methods.
• They are consistent in their commitment to growth.
• It is a never ending process, month after month, year after year.

2. Empirical Creativity:
• It is based on direct observation.
• The metaphor of firing ‘bullets’ in the dark, and once you get the target in sight, fire canon ball.

3. Productive Paranoia:
• Always prepare for the worst
• The only assurance you can expect is tough times.

The companies studied for this book were:
• Amgen,
• Biomet,
• Intel,
• Microsoft,
• Progressive Insurance,
• Southwest Airlines,
• Stryker
• Genentech,
• Kirschner,
• AMD,
• Apple,
• Safeco,
• PSA and
• United States Surgical.

Among the many interesting findings in this book, he also comes up with a few great concepts.
• 10x companies
• Level 5 Leader
• 20 Mile March
• The interesting story of Roald Amusdsen versus Robert Falcon Scott (October 1911 life-threatening adventure) to reach the south pole.
• The amazing story telling description of the May 1999 Malcolm Daly and Jim Donini episode
• The brilliant though provoking analysis related to ‘Luck and Return on Luck’.

The only drawback (don’t know if you can call it so) to Jim Collins work:
• Is that among the 11 featured companies mentioned in ‘Good to Great’ – Circuit City and Fannie Mae are nearly bankrupt.
• Great Leaders are humble – well was, Mr. Steve Jobs a ‘humble leader’? (The answer is – NO WAY!)

Now though these two points by itself are completely and totally negligible by any standards, I must add that given Jim’s incredible ability to really capture the imagination of its readers by the fantastic mind-boggling research and study, you will realize Collins books take the role of being more on the descriptive rather than a prescriptive side of explanations.

And description is not prescription therefore is not the solution.

This book is not a ‘how to’ book, nor one that provides the magic recipe that can solve problems. Rather just a brief study of what made these companies or individuals stand the test of time.

Overall ratings
Even after working so hard to find a flaw in his book. I would say this is yet among the many books that I have read and keep reading, a master-piece in research and study. Though when I compare it to the standards Jim has set for himself – not the greatest or ground breaking as its predecessors, yet formidable enough to retain the title of greatness.

Given his brilliance, I am sure, no matter what happens in the next coming 10 years, given all the tragedies, unpredictable events and horrors we may encounter, Jim will always stand out as a great intellect, author and researcher.

As usual, I loved his book.

Overall rating – A well deserved 9.5 out of 10.
Profile Image for Morgan.
120 reviews6 followers
August 25, 2016
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.
Profile Image for Steven.
1,089 reviews394 followers
October 16, 2019
I liked the lessons this offered, but it felt a little... "toot my own horn" at the beginning, and it kind of turned me off a little. The historical examples, especially those involving the South Pole expeditions and the IMAX trip to Everest, were interesting reads.

3.5 stars, really.
Profile Image for Marichka Dzhala.
34 reviews4 followers
December 12, 2017
Спочатку мені здалося, що ця книжка буде дуже нудною, але я знову помилилася :)
Ще такого крутого опрацювання даних я ніколи не читала.
Ця книжка - це дослідження того, ��о потрібно робити для побудови успішної компанії. Джим Коллінз зібрав дані (за період 10 років) про компанії, які досягли успіху і їхніх опонентів, які загнулися, і всі вони представлені у книжці. Досліджували все: галузеву динаміку, джерела стартового капіталу, керівництво, корпоративну культуру, навіть дитинство і виховання менеджерів.
Тут можна прочитати про те, що наявність інновацій у компанія у 64% не спрацьовує, або переконатися ще раз у цьому, що ще жодна компанія не отримала прибутків через везіння, як всі компанії тестували свої ідеї на користувачах з допомогою дрібних експериментів, а потім випускали продукт, який реально потребували користувачі. І найцікавіше - це все реально підтверджує дослідження! Це круто.
Коли я читала книжку Hard things about hard things, я думала: "Блін, який той Горовіц кльовий." І тільки зараз я зрозуміла, що він робив все, що радив Коллінз в Great by Choice.

Вести людей за собою - це важко, надавати людями послуги якісно - це важко, бути в кризовій ситуації - це важко, звільняти людей, які тобі стали рідними - це важко. Прочитайте цю книжку, щоб стало легше вести людей за собою і створювати якісні, круті речі.
Profile Image for Jonathan Cassie.
Author 5 books9 followers
September 9, 2012
I am a huge admirer of Jim Collins' research, methods and tight, accessible, methodical writing. "Great By Choice," however, suggests that perhaps the scholarly architecture that made his previous work so great may be losing a bit of its strength. There's a bit of a teabag on its third cup of tea here. The core thesis seems less powerful. The evidence just as good and rich, but in the service of smaller objectives. The narrative less nuanced. Well worth reading, but not as provocative as Collins' previous work.
Profile Image for C.
1,109 reviews1,043 followers
September 9, 2021
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 people luck, or "Who Luck"; having the right mentor, partner, friend, etc. Because the right people can be key to success, I've been trying to expand my network and maintain strong relationships.

Jim Collins is known for his thorough research, and this is no exception. I liked this book more than Good to Great (see my review) because it’s more about individuals than companies.

Core behaviors of 10Xers
Fanatic discipline: they have relentless focus, independence of mind, and extreme consistency.
Empirical creativity: they base decisions on empirical evidence, not conventional wisdom or authority figures.
Productive paranoia: they’re hyper-vigilant of changes in their environment, and respond with preparation and productive action.
Level 5 ambition: they balance personal humility and professional will. They’re ambitious for a cause greater than themselves.

20 mile march
Hit specified performance markers consistently over the long term. This requires high performance in hard times, and holding back in good times.

Fire bullets, then cannonballs
Once you’ve met your industry’s innovation threshold, being innovative doesn’t matter much.
Bullets are low-risk, low-cost tests to see what will work. Based on the resulting empirical evidence, concentrate your resources and fire a cannonball (a higher-risk, higher-cost action). Be creative, but validate your ideas. Then, keep 20 Mile Marching to make the most of the big success.

Leading above the Death Line
Prepare for bad events by building cash reserves and taking other precautions.
Pay attention to risk and respond to changes.
The sign of mediocrity isn’t unwillingness to change, but chronic inconsistency (always changing with every new trend; being controlled rather than taking control).
“Not all time in life is equal. Life serves up some moments that count much more than other moments. We will all face moments when the quality of our performance matters much more than other moments.”

Create a SMaC recipe: a Specific, Methodical, and Consistent success formula, and amend it only rarely. Think of the US Constitution and its amendments.

Return on luck
The authors define luck as a significant, unpredictable event.
10Xers didn’t have more good or bad luck, but they had a better return on luck (ROL).
The question isn’t whether you’ll have luck (good or bad), but what you’ll do with it. The problem isn’t a lack of good luck; it’s failing to execute on it.
Profile Image for Stefan Kanev.
125 reviews215 followers
August 16, 2019
This short book talks about how to create a great company, which it takes to mean (1) performing 10X better than comparisons (2) in wildly uncertain environments. It's a pretty good and even contains some actionable things.

The authors pick a number of companies that outperform the market by 10x or more and compare them to a similar companies that don't. Examples are Intel vs. AMD, Microsoft vs. Apple (before Steve Jobs' return), Southwest vs. Pacific Southwest and so on. The key insights map pretty well to the table of contents:

* "20 Mile March" means setting a stable goal and delivering on it in both good time and bad. The key is not over-delivering in good times. If you plan to take a really long hike, set a goal (like 20 miles per day) and stick to it. On bad days, work hard to meet it. On good days, take it easy once you've met it – don't try to do 25 or 30. Rest instead. That way you'll have the strength for the bad days.
* "Fire Bullets, Then Cannonballs" means making a big bet only after you've made a few small bets that ensure (or greatly heighten the chances of) success. Before making a huge offense in a new market, test it by a few smaller ones and commit only when the data is making you fairly confident. Keyword "data". Above all, don't get in a place where you need to make a big bet that's a Hail Mary.
* "Lead above the Death Line" means being prepared for things to go wrong all the time. Have plans B and C, so when the worst case strikers, you're prepared, instead of dead.
* "SMaC" recipe stands for "Specific, Methodical and Consistent". For me personally, the key part here is "specific". I won't be able to do this justice in this review, but you might want to check the excerpt on Jim Collins' site: https://www.jimcollins.com/concepts/s...
* "Return on Luck" – the 10x and comparison cases had similar amounts of good luck and bad luck, but what made a huge difference is how they responded to it. The 10Xers managed to convert good luck into amazing returns, while the comparisons squandered it; the 10Xers managed to convert bad luck into defining moments (e.g. Intel getting out of the memory business and into processors), while the comparison cases got crippled by it. The whole chapter is really interesting and attempts to analyze luck methodically.

Overall, the book got me hooked on Jim Collins. He's written three other books (Good to Great, How the Mightly Fall and Built to Last) and I'm eager to get into them soon.
Profile Image for Rachel Bayles.
373 reviews135 followers
December 27, 2017
Great, great, great! Go out and read immediately. A wonderfully hopeful and logic-based formula for progress.
Profile Image for Nicole.
29 reviews
January 23, 2012
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, their findings in this most recent study did not contradict any results of their previous studies and in fact corroborated them.

Most of the concepts outlined in this book I found to be intuitive, although that is an entirely subjective evaluation that could come from the fact that business management theory is in my top 3 favorite non-fiction genres (the others being self-help and (auto)biography), or from working in environments where several of these concepts are already in practice. That said, I find the book useful because the concepts are organized with examples and explanations and are supported with actual data.

Since I've only read two of the four books in this series (the first and the last), I'd obviously need to read the other two for a well-informed opinion on the entire body of work - to which I look forward and plan on doing soon.

A couple of notes:

-If you've read Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers, a couple of the same cases are addressed here, but in a different light. In Chapter 7, "Return on Luck", Collins also takes a look at Bill Gates and the birthdates of Canadian hockey players - but he uses the data to support what, at first glance, might appear to be a view opposite Gladwell's. After some thought, though, I believe they are both making the same argument and that Collins might have missed Gladwell's complete message.

-I read the hardcover version, which has 303 pages in it. Only the first 180 pages are "the book". Pages 180-303 are the Epilogue, FAQ, Research Foundations/Methods, Notes, and Index. In case that makes a difference to you. I, for one, was disappointed when I reached page 180 and realized that the narrative part was over, even though I still had a good number of pages under my right thumb. It's a psychological thing.
Profile Image for Farhan Khalid.
404 reviews97 followers
September 30, 2020
The future cannot be exactly foretold, but we can create it

10Xers reject the choice between consistency and change — they embrace consistency and change, both at the same time

They take full responsibility and when they do this they demonstrate fanatic discipline, empirical creativity, and productive paranoia

Empirical creativity — tempered by reality and facts rather than whim and untested theories

Productive paranoia — a never-ending and very careful assessment of risk

10X CEO — a great dedication to the company

A bullet has little cost or risk and is a very good test for what will work, which then becomes a cannonball and has high cost and risk but promises good returns


The event is independent of the person receiving it

The event is important

The event is unpredictable to a greater or lesser degree

Goals live on the other side of obstacles and challenges

Level 5 ambition — channel ego and intensity into something larger and more enduring than yourself - focus on your cause, your company, your work; Choose goals by impact, contribution, and purpose if you want to attract others to help

Fanatical Discipline — Keeps the leader on track

Empirical Creativity — Keeps the leader vibrant

Productive Paranoia — Keeps the leader alive

Greatness is not primarily a matter of circumstance, greatness is first and foremost a matter of conscious choice and discipline
302 reviews217 followers
August 6, 2018
You know those books you wish you'd read 4 years ago? For me that's one of them.

So that's my last book written by Jim Collins. It might be the best one. The book is about how to deal with uncertainty in business, sums up the attitude of business leaders, the framework of testing, avoiding risk, and planning.

Highly actionable, I've read it in 24 hours. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Tõnu Vahtra.
550 reviews81 followers
April 21, 2019
It's not a bad book but it does not stand out like previous Collins books (Built to Last and From Good to Great), I did not find that much novel information from it. Furthermore I was a bit annoyed that the authors claimed about a massive research conducted for high number of companies but the actual results were barely mentioned (a few examples like Southwestern, Apple, Microsoft and Intel were used throughout the book, Amundsen's Sout Pole and Krakauer's "Into Thin Air" as historical case studies). For me one of the more interesting concepts (and more difficult to follow) was the walk 20 miles per day idea (keep a steady pace even if the going gets very easy for a while). I was also not that impressed by the 10X companies claims and this book is using the term quite freely to say the least.
As Taleb writes about Black Swans that you cannot predict what and when will happen but in uncertain business environments you can say with high certainty that something is coming at some point, so better be ready for it (Great companies are more conservative compared to the average). Don't let conditions determine your success, instead prepare to survive and thrive in any environment.
The concepts from two previous books were questioned in "You are not so smart... " book, I don't really feel that this book makes a compelling case against the claims raised there. Still in the end of the day there are interesting thoughts in the book and thus 4 stars.

In unpredictable business environments the companies that are well prepared will prevail.
10x companies set themselves targets which they hit precisely year after year - no matter what the conditions.
First shoot bullets and only after empirical evidence shoot a big cannonball(testing the market with series of low-risk, low-cost innovations). 10X companies are bold and innovative, but only when the evidence supports such tactic.
Innovation alone is not enough, it must be combined with discipline in business practice. While companies that fail to make their industry threshold in innovation cannot hope to succeed, innovation at higher levels seems to bring little advantage because company that focuses too much on innovation will become unbalanced.
10x companies are productively paranoid - they fear the worst and obsessively prepare for it (i.e. higher cash to assets ratio).
10x companies create durable and specific operating procedures which breed consistency and success (including what they are deciding not to do, which is important part of good strategy).
Neither luck nor chance makes 10x companies great - hard work and ambition does (statistically those companies did not have more luck events than the overall tested group).

The three core behaviors:
*Fanatic discipline, while discipline does not mean everybody in the organization obeying orders but consistency in action.
*Empirical creativity when making decisions
*Productive paranoia helps to survive changes in their competitive environment. Such companies are never comfortable but always fearful of what might go wrong.

“if you want to achieve consistent performance, you need both parts of a 20 Mile March: a lower bound and an upper bound, a hurdle that you jump over and a ceiling that you will not rise above, the ambition to achieve and the self-control to hold back. ”

“When you marry operating excellence with innovation, you multiply the value of your creativity.”

“Discipline, in essence, is consistency of action—consistency with values, consistency with long-term goals, consistency with performance standards, consistency of method, consistency over time. Discipline is not the same as regimentation. Discipline is not the same as measurement. Discipline is not the same as hierarchical obedience or adherence to bureaucratic rules. True discipline requires the independence of mind to reject pressures to conform in ways incompatible with values, performance standards, and long-term aspirations. For a 10Xer, the only legitimate form of discipline is self-discipline, having the inner will to do whatever it takes to create a great outcome, no matter how difficult.”

Profile Image for Joe Klarr.
48 reviews
August 26, 2023
This was an interesting look into leadership styles and what differentiates certain competitors. The methodologies and conclusions were things i hadn’t thought of before; and there was definitely helpful takeaways. A bit more strategic than others I’ve read but definitely a cool perspective.
Profile Image for Bianca.
71 reviews13 followers
July 11, 2023
A thorough look into how great companies survive trying times. The insights here are timeless - what contributed to these companies thriving decades ago are still relevant. Correct to say that the only constant thing is uncertainty, and this book has the key to navigate that.
Profile Image for Liesl Back.
83 reviews15 followers
July 31, 2023
Good principles and some neat research done, though I really think the whole thing could be condensed quite a bit.
Profile Image for Khánh Trình.
25 reviews85 followers
April 11, 2015
Tư tưởng quản trị của quyển sách không có gì mới mẻ, không gây tác động mạnh đến người đọc. Chung qui lại để thành công, bất kì nhà lãnh đạo nào cũng cần có sự chuẩn bị, chuẩn bị mọi lúc, chuẩn bị cho trường hợp bất khả - khủng hoảng là điều cần thiết và dễ hiểu,nhưng chuẩn bị sau khi đã mình đã thành công thì không phải ai cũng "nhớ" để mà làm, cái say men chiến thắng cũng tệ hại không kém việc thiếu cẩn trọng trong thời kì suy thoái.

Tạp chí Wallstreet Journal review quyển này như sau: "Collins đã đưa ra hai thông điệp quản trị đầy hấp dẫn: những con người bình thường đều có khả năng đạt được trình độ quản trị xuất sắc, và những con người đó có thể xây dựng những tổ chức vĩ đại. Đó chính là những gì mà chúng ta - những người bình thường - muốn nghe". Đó chẳng phải là một trong những lý do mà nhiều người chúng ta luôn chọn khi tìm kiếm một cuốn sách hay. Sách nếu không chỉ cách thức giúp con người ta tốt lên mà đào thêm hố sâu ngăn cách giữa những kẻ bình thường và người vĩ đại thì việc gì phải đi tìm kiếm những cuốn như thế này về mà đọc.

Mình chấm 3 sao vì nội dung không mới, sách dịch dở quá, những strategy của 2 ông tác giả viết thưỡng xuyên bị lặp lại khá nhão nhoẹt, strategy thì dùng tittle hơi dài dòng, gây khó chịu cho người đọc.
Profile Image for Jane.
Author 30 books80 followers
February 21, 2012
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 been called into a dysfunctional team where at the heart of it, there wasn't a leader over-using a preference, or a team out of balance, or one faction or another viewing the other preference's normal behavior as somehow "wrong". Because we are so hard-wired not to see our own flaws (see Katherine Schultz's Being Wrong) we need a neutral frame like type to figure out what we aren't aware of!'
Profile Image for Michael MacRae.
101 reviews4 followers
March 10, 2023
This book is yet another Collins home run, maybe the most crucial for entrepreneurs early in their career where everything we face comes with uncertainty.
Profile Image for Tara Brabazon.
Author 24 books332 followers
May 8, 2018
A heartening read.

This book demonstrates that luck does not create success. Innovation does not create success. Action and discipline are required. Indeed, the successful have three characteristics: Fanatic discipline, Empirical creativity and Productive paranoia.

In other words, hard work, data-based decision making and preparing for the worst are enabling forces for achievement.

Considering all the stuff about the fourth industrial revolution and the creative economy, this book demonstrates that disciplined commitment will create success.

Obvious, but sort of liberating ...

Profile Image for Angelo Pesce.
1 review
August 23, 2019
Terrible, mostly padding and repetition, but what’s worse is that the “concepts” “discovered” are just empty buzzwords with no proven predictive power nor actionable advice. Read “the innovator’s solution” instead.
2 reviews1 follower
June 27, 2016
Another great insight into the world of successful companies and their leaders. So much to learn from!!!
Profile Image for Gordon.
280 reviews9 followers
October 8, 2020
4.5 stars. Despite the format of easy-reading management book, the emphasis on quantitive data and detailed analysis of pairs of similar companies does make this convincing as more than a collection of opinions an anecdotes. The conclusions are also both surprising in places and yet instinctively compelling. They're also quite counter-cultural for the genre in that "being the most innovative" and "moving rapidly in response to change" as a company actually turned out to be losing strategies quite often for their companies studied, unless accompanied by other stabilising behaviours. I won't try to summarise - read some other reviews or better yet, the book itself. It's quite short.

There's a story told in the introduction that basically condenses the entire book, contrasting Scott and Amundsen's approach to reaching the South Pole, especially in terms of how they handled risk in supply planning, innovative technology choice, maintaining a steady rate of progress, and how they reacted to setbacks. I don't know if it's fair to Scott or not, but it's a brilliant use of a parable as a teaching aide. I'll remember it long after I've forgotten all the other companies in the list.
Profile Image for Maksym Lysak.
11 reviews11 followers
September 5, 2017
Good book. Several core ideas are hard to prove wrong, thus the extent of how scientific these evidences are is questionable.
However, key things I took for myself:
1. Level 5 ambition leaders:
- passionately driven for a cause beyond themselves;
- doing it not for themselves, for the company (channel their ego to smth bigger than they)
2. Empirical Creativity:
- fire bullets, not cannibals (this idea intersects with SCRUM (Sutherland), Lean Startup (Ries), 4 Steps for Epiphany (Steve Blank)
- reasoning by first principle (intersects with Musk advices and thinking)
- empirical evidence vs what others think
- independence and confidence driven by the data/observations (iteration and measurement)
3. "Who" luck is the most important. Swim with great people and build deep enduring relationships and you'll start getting lucky.
Profile Image for Audrey.
202 reviews34 followers
February 19, 2018
Best takeaway was that luck is based on people. Get lucky with the people that you surround yourself with. The triangle framework of fanatic discipline, productive paranoia, and empirical creativity had some great backup evidence, but it's still unclear whether they can be trained or if they're developed from a young age / inborn...in which case, how much can we really "choose"? The author seems to imply that Progressive insurance got lucky by having a 10x son (Peter Lewis) to takeover as CEO. I did like the idea that it's all about whether you're able to execute on your luck though. Everyone gets lucky, but it's up to you to take the best advantage of it. Basically, life/business is one big game and you have to play your hand properly.
Profile Image for Irina Podgurskaya.
146 reviews5 followers
May 8, 2019
Короче, это книга про то, что великие - это не мы.

Про то, что великое лидерство это сочетание некоторого количества психических расстройств (Коллинс говорит про ОКР, пусть и не называет его так - и паранойю, хоть и называет ее продуктивной) с любопытством я подозревала и раньше, и это не совсем тот коктейль, который можешь смешать себе сам) Практически все, о чем он пишет - применимо в любом рабочем быту (железная дисциплина! боже, да), но сколько среди нас тех людей, кто способен на железную дисциплину и одновременно к принятию решений? то-то же.

Классная книжка, но как 99 процентов бизнес-литературы - бесполезная чуть более, чем полностью. Но читается как Майн Рид, за это ей 4+
13 reviews4 followers
October 30, 2011
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 flying company that is outperforming their industry by significant margins with a comparison company that is similar to the 10Xer.

The 10Xers that Jim and Morten analyze are Amgen, Biomet, Intel, Microsoft, Progressive Insurance, Southwest Airlines, and Stryker.

The lessons drawn from their research are a mix of both "old school" wisdom and wisdom that contradicts your typical business advice. An example of "old school" lesson learned from their research is the safety net that 10X companies work as compared to their counterparts. This safety net created by the 10X companies is used to provide the company a cushion to withstand the up’s and down’s that they inevitably have to face. With this large margin of safety, they can withstand a series of bad luck events and wait it out until their luck turns for the better. Their comparison didn’t build significant cash reserves and consequently, had a tougher time during those industry lulls.

Jim and Morten are able to really engage the reader by pulling in historical stories that communicate a particular point or concept much more concretely to the reader. There were some poignant examples in which individuals and teams in very unforgiving environments made crucial mistakes (not following the model presented by the 10Xers) that ended up costing lives. One of those stories involves the race to the South pole between Roald Amundsen and Robert Falcon Scott. Amundsen represents all of the behaviors that are exhibited by 10X companies, while Robert Scott does not represent those skills. Roald Amundsen made it first to the South pole but Robert Scott and his team died in route. Through these stories, the reader sees the importance of these lessons which can mean the difference between life and death quite literally.

Again, like prior books, Collins is able to take the ideas learned through his research and couch them in “quirky” jargon and language to enhance the readers ability to digest and understand the material presented.

A must read for any business owner or entrepreneur and I’ll even recommend this book to the uninitiated in world of business. The concepts and principles provided by Jim and Morten through their research is applicable to individuals as much as organizations. This book is a must have for any self-help reader looking for principles or guidance on how to best live their life.
I love this book!

Favorite Quotes:

“Amundsen’s philosophy: You don’t wait until you’re in an unexpected storm to discover that you need more strength and endurance. You don’t wait until you’re shipwrecked to determine if you can eat raw dolphin. You don’t wait until you’re on the Antarctic journey to become a superb skier and dog handler. You prepare with intensity, all the time, so that when conditions turn against you, you can draw from a deep reservoir of strength. And equally, you prepare so that when conditions turn in your favor, you can strike hard.”

“If you always search for the Next Big Thing, that’s largely what you’ll end up doing – always searching for the Next Big Thing.”

“Not all time in life is equal. Life serves up some moments that count much more than other moments. …We will all face moments when the quality of our performance matters much more than others moments, moments that we can seize or squander. 10Xers prepare for those moments, recognize those moments, grab those moments, upend their lives in those moments, and deliver their best in those moments. They respond to unequal times with unequal intensity, when it matters most.”

“We’ve found in all our research studies that the signature of mediocrity is not an unwillingness to change; the signature of mediocrity is chronic inconsistency.”

“Everyone gets luck, good and bad, but 10X winners make more of the luck they get.”

“…”When the moment comes, will you capture it, or just let it slip?” "

“…greatness is not primarily a matter of circumstance; greatness is first and foremost a matter of conscious choice and discipline.”

“We are not imprisoned by our circumstances. We are not imprisoned by the luck we get or the inherent unfairness of life. We are not imprisoned b crushing setbacks, self-inflicted mistakes or our past success. We are not imprisoned by the times in which we live, by the number of hours in a day or even the number of hours we’re granted in our very short lives. In the end, we can control only a tiny sliver of what happens to us. But even so, we are free to choose, free to become great by choice.”

- Very engrossing writing that pulls the reader in with outside palpable examples of how the concepts presented in this book play out
- Easily digestible concepts
- Moving

- Not many from my point of view but I’ll try!
- Probably could have spent time going more in depth on some of the concepts and how each company reflected each of these concepts. Jim and Morten spends time using a single 10X company to illustrate a particular concept. I would have liked to see how each of the 10X companies employed that particular principle.
Profile Image for Jacek Bartczak.
196 reviews61 followers
August 17, 2018
The first impression (not only mine) which come up during reading this book - I'm not such crazy as I thought.

"Great by choice" presents a set of conclusions which:
- clarify the impact of factors like the luck preparation etc.,
- are easy to understand but hard to sustain on daily basis when you are tired, overwhelmed by duties or cannot think 100% clearly because of emotions.

The story about Andy Groove - the masterpiece which mind-blowed my thinking about how deeply things can be analysed.
Profile Image for Michelle Sauvageau.
314 reviews4 followers
March 21, 2021
I thought that this was a decent leadership/business book, but overall will be tough to implement many concepts for people not in very high up executive positions of power.

There were some solid takeaways for first level leaders and mid-level managers. I really like the concepts of fanatic discipline, empirical creativity and productive paranoia.

I did enjoy the example anecdotes and stories shared, those were very applicable and I felt like I learned the most from them.
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