Book Review: GREAT BY CHOICE by Jim Collins and Morten T. Hansen

This book is not a business quest but a human quest. It is relevant and very insightful as principles outlined, when applied, it just doesn’t react to event but shapes events. Companies can form new lens and enduring quest as they simply do not know what the future holds.

Uncertainties, chaos, luck, global competition and disruption in markets has rendered some companies irrelevant while others have thrive and became master of their own fate despite having the same business model, same opportunity/challenges and from the same industry. The future is unknown, the world has therefore awoken from false sense of stability, safety and wealth entitlement. Companies can’t predict the future but they can create, prevail, succeed and endure it.

Jim Collins in his book Great by choice has clearly explained his research on 10xers companies (companies that builds enterprises that beats the industries averages by at least 10times) he believes in preparing immensely, so that when conditions turn against you, you can draw strength from a deep reservoir. Some of the major core behavior of 10exers in his book include:

  • Fanatic discipline: It keeps companies on track, consistent in action, goals, performance standards and methods.
  • Empirical creativity: keeps companies vibrant and when faced with uncertainty they don’t look at other people’s conventional wisdom rather they rely on empirical evidence, direct observation, practical experimentation, direct engagement with tangible evidence and therefore make bold creative moves.
  • Production Paranoia: keeps companies active and stay highly attuned to threats and challenges. They channel their fear and worry into action, planning, building buffers and making large margin of safety.

10xers companies aims for much more than being successful they don’t define themselves by money, fame or power, they define themselves by impact, contribution and purpose. Personalities like Bill gates, all his ego goes to Microsoft.10exers also exemplified the 20 Mile March concept (hitting stepwise performance markers with great consistency over a long period of time.) The 20 Mile March principle has built confidence in companies’ ability to perform and survive in adverse circumstances and reduce likelihood of catastrophe

He also illustrates potent principles like Firing bullets and then cannon balls which entails figuring out what works, then once you have empirical confidence based on the bullets, you concentrates your resources and fire cannon balls. Companies can also learn from their mistakes and apply what they learn. It is what we do before the storm hits (the decision, disciple and buffer/ shock absorber), that matters most in determining whether the enterprises pulls ahead or falls behind /dies when the storm hits. Being specific, methodological and consistent (SMaC recipe) is a durable operating practice to successfully company.

This simplified leadership concepts in his book : fanatic discipline, empirical creativity, productive paranoia, level 5 ambition,20 mile March, fire bullets then cannonballs, leading above the death line, and SMaC recipe all contribute directly to a great return of luck, it unifies organization efforts and give clear guidance .

As life offers no guarantee (either good or bad luck) for we cannot cause, control or predict luck but we can make most of the luck we get. What we do as a company matters more than what happens to us. We can be great by choice.

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