Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Great By Choice: Jim Collins & Morten Hansen

"People write how they became an extremely successful entrepreneur, 
but only Jim Collins can teach you how to become one." 

In "Great By Choice", Jim Collins and Morten Hansen unravel the secret behind becoming "Great". If you are wondering "luck" plays a role in it, then by the time you finish the last chapter you will realize that the secret mantra is actually your "Choice".

The book begins with the story of Roald Amundsen and Robert Falcon Scott’s attempts to reach the south pole. While Amundsen accomplished his goal, Scott’s attempt ended in a disaster. Collins builds on this story and connects to the readers by unraveling his secret of success. As you read further, you notice that, Amundsen displayed all the attributes of companies that thrive in chaos: "Fanatic Discipline," "Empirical Creativity" and "Productive Paranoia." That's the reason why he wasn't waiting for luck, rather he used to prepare every moment so that when luck knocks at his door - he is ready.Scott, on the other hand left himself unprepared and later on complained in his journal about his bad luck.

This books presents an extensive research done by Collins, which he presents in an interesting way. Taking 2 companies belonging to the same industry, pitched against each other. Where one thrives, the other does not. This book seeks an answer to 'why?'. Probably one of the reasons why subtitle of the book says: “Uncertainty, chaos, and luck why some thrive despite them all.”
The author entirely focuses on figuring out an answer to that single question, backed by tremendous amount of research and analysis, beautifully woven into a page turner. Instead of presenting the data bluntly, the author has figured out certain pragmatic principles which the reader can apply not just in his enterprise, but also his life.

Some of these pragmatic principles or ideas make up very interesting chapters of the Book:

They are the ones we aspire to be one they. Level 5 leaders with fanatic discipline, empirical creativity, productive paranoia. They never blame their luck. Making most out the good ones and learning from the bad ones. They keep striving for success, no matter what comes in thier way.

20-Mile March
This shows us how important in life is consistency. Be it a good day or bad you need to move ahead, marching 20 miles every day on a trip, rather than worrying about the entire distance. This is what drives a 10X company, their consistency to go on and on.

Fire bullets, then cannonballs
This part was my favourite from techno-managerial point of view. The idea is to innovate first with small experiments(bullets) rather than launching big initiatives (cannonballs). This is something close to business calibration  Instead of exposing the cards in your hand, you make calculative moves to rise above your competitors. The role played by innovation is also discussed to point out that, although these 10X companies were usually first among competitors to innovate, it also took much more than pure innovation for them to outperform their peers. The idea is to not only innovate, but also to execute extremely well, as very well stated by Intel's slogan "We Deliver" (although they have an advance R&D Lab).

Leading above the death line
We are introduced to the concept of "productive paranoia" which exists in the 10Xers. The are prepared for all situations with backup plans to ensure that they survive no matter what. You may call it fear, but this fear gives an impetus to ensure their business remains well above the death line.

Develop a specific, methodical, and consistent recipe, and relentlessly execute it. it minimizes mistakes that can amplify bad luck events. It helps in hindering bad luck to disrupt your plans.

The authors deliver the most inspiring passage in the Epilogue:
"The best leaders we've studied maintain a paradoxical relationship to luck. On one hand, they credit good luck in retrospect for having played a role in their achievements, despite the undeniable fact that others were just as lucky. On the other hand, they don't blame bad luck for failures, and they hold only themselves responsible if they fail to turn their luck into great results..."

Overall, this book is not good, but great. Do catch it out!


  1. Oh cool! I think I should should lay my hands on this book soon. I have heard a lot about Jim Collins & his expertise... Thanks for sharing!

  2. ^ yup it is a nice book if you want to become an entrepreneur... I don't know if you have read any of Malcolm Gladwell's books .. you might like it too .. :)

  3. Nice review .. Will surely read this book :)


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