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

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

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by Jim Collins, Morten Hansen
     
 

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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

Overview

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 principles for building a truly great enterprise in unpredictable, tumultuous, and fast-moving times.

The new study
Great by Choice distinguishes itself from Collins’s prior work by its focus not just on performance, but also on the type of unstable environments faced by leaders today.

With a team of more than twenty researchers, Collins and Hansen studied 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. The research team then contrasted these “10X companies” to a carefully selected set of comparison companies that failed to achieve greatness in similarly extreme environments.

The new findings
The study results were full of provocative surprises. Such as:

  • The best leaders were not more risk taking, more visionary, and more creative than the comparisons; they were more disciplined, more empirical, and more paranoid.
  • Innovation by itself turns out not to be the trump card in a chaotic and uncertain world; more important is the ability to scale innovation, to blend creativity with discipline.
  • Following the belief that leading in a “fast world” always requires “fast decisions” and “fast action” is a good way to get killed.
  • The great companies changed less in reaction to a radically changing world than the comparison companies.

The authors challenge conventional wisdom with thought-provoking, sticky, and supremely practical concepts. They include: 10Xers; the 20 Mile March; Fire Bullets, Then Cannonballs; Leading above the Death Line; Zoom Out, Then Zoom In; and the SMaC Recipe.

Finally, in the last chapter, Collins and Hansen present their most provocative and original analysis: defining, quantifying, and studying the role of luck. The great companies and the leaders who built them were not luckier than the comparisons, but they did get a higher Return on Luck.

This book is classic Collins: contrarian, data-driven, and uplifting. He and Hansen show convincingly that, even in a chaotic and uncertain world, greatness happens by choice, not chance.

Editorial Reviews

With top-sellers like Good to Great, Great by Choice and Born to Last, Jim Collins has established his credentials as an expert observer intent on understanding what makes great enterprises work. In Great By Choice, he and co-author Morten T. Hansen apply nine years of research to explain why some companies succeed even in the most tumultuous times. Filled with examples and rigorous analysis, this book is refreshingly free of vapid pep talk. Detailed; stimulating; often counterintuitive.

Financial Times
“A sensible, well-timed and precisely targeted message for companies shaken by macroeconomic crises”
Wall Street Journal
“Collins and Hansen draw some interesting and counterintuitive conclusions from their research….far from a dry work of social science. Mr. Collins has a way with words, not least with metaphor.”
Booklist
Entrepreneurs and business leaders may find the concepts in this book useful for making choices to increase their odds of building a great company.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780062120991
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
10/11/2011
Pages:
320
Sales rank:
41,101
Product dimensions:
6.32(w) x 9.26(h) x 1.01(d)

Meet the Author

Jim Collins is author or coauthor of six books that have sold in total more than ten million copies worldwide, including the bestsellers Good to Great, Built to Last, and How the Mighty Fall. 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. He now operates a management laboratory in Boulder, Colorado, where he conducts research, teaches, and consults with executives from the corporate and social sectors.

Morten T. Hansen is a management professor at the University of California, Berkeley (School of Information), and at INSEAD. Formerly a professor at Harvard Business School, Morten holds a PhD from Stanford Graduate School of Business, where he was a Fulbright scholar. He is the author of Collaboration and the winner of the Administrative Science Quarterly Award for exceptional contributions to the field of organization studies. Previously a manager with the Boston Consulting Group, Morten consults and gives talks for companies worldwide.

Brief Biography

Hometown:
Boulder, Colorado
Date of Birth:
January 25, 1958
Place of Birth:
Aurora, Colorado
Education:
B.S. in mathematical sciences, Stanford University, 1980; M.B.A., Stanford University, 1983
Website:
http://www.jimcollins.com

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Great By Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos and Luck--Why Some Thrive Despite Them All 3.6 out of 5 based on 1 ratings. 16 reviews.
NathanIves More than 1 year ago
Great by Choice by Jim Collins and Morten Hansen represents a detailed assessment of companies thriving in times of uncertainty compared with similar organizations not performing so well. In the analytical tradition of Built to Last, Good to Great, and How the Mighty Fall, Collins and Hansen imperially demonstrate that organizations performing well in tumultuous times: - Have leaders who were more disciplined, more empirical, and more paranoid - Believed that a `fast world' necessitated `fast decisions' and `fast actions' was a good way to fail - Changed less in reaction to the radically evolving world than their poorer performing comparison companies I like Great by Choice for its data-driven analysis of organizational performance in turbulent times. I believe this assessment and its findings are particularly relevant given today's highly uncertain marketplace. However, I believe there are some flaws in Collins and Hansen's analysis. First, it appears that a majority of the 10x companies were small, fragile, and subsequently more nimble than their comparisons during the early portion of the comparison period. I feel this difference in organizational structure materially influenced the results each company was able to achieve; the 10x companies having `less to lose' were better positioned to take the actions necessary for a higher long-term payoff whereas their peers were laden with `historical scaring' - legacy contracts and obligations, well established shareholder expectations, etcetera - and were subsequently more confined in what they are able to do and so were less likely to be able to take the action needed to achieve 10x gains. Another flaw was the comparison of Microsoft to Apple. While both were high tech companies during the assessment period, Microsoft was a software company whereas Apple was an integrated software and hardware company; placing it in a very different business. I disagree that these companies were comparative. Finally, Collins and Hansen do not broaden their analysis to include companies such as Microsoft and Apple that change performance positions over time. Subjectively, if a company can be great by choice, then turnarounds such as that which Apple orchestrated in the 2000s should not only be possible but, given the vast number of businesses in the marketplace over the past 100+ years and the several periods of market turbulence, should have occurred in other instances. Validating the Great by Choice principles against several turnaround examples would help strengthen their assertions - assuming they are true. In spite of my analytical reservations, I like Great by Choice and believe it offers significant, if not groundbreaking, insight to the principles for building a successful organization regardless of the marketplace environment. For its data-driven insights of how to succeed during uncertain times, Great by Choice is a StrategyDriven recommended read. All the Best, Nathan Ives StrategyDriven Principal
Dr_Wilson_Trivino More than 1 year ago
Following Jim Collins¿ smash success in Good to Great, he has teamed up with Morten T. Hansen to pen Great by Choice. The scholarly authors delve into the question: Why do some companies thrive in uncertainty, even chaos, and others do not? Right off the bat, they address a common criticism of Good to Great in which some of the companies highlighted are gone or have stumbled. True, that can happen, but what the authors are seeking is to understand the historical dynasty of organizations in what made them great. In essence, just because the company is gone today, does not mean we can¿t learn from its success. The chapters are pretty straight forward and are scattered with charts, academic ease and anecdotal commentary. As best stated by management guru Peter Drucker, ¿the best- perhaps even the only- way to predict the future is to create it¿. That¿s exactly what you find that innovative organizations have leaders that are more discipline, empirical, and paranoid. This bizarre blend of creativity and discipline are important in today¿s uncertain world. Besides, even the most amazing great companies changed less in reaction to a radically shifting world than the comparison companies. The wacky results are wisdoms under the heading of the 10xers, the 20 mile March; Fire Bullets, Then Cannonballs; Leaders above the Death Line; Zoom Out, Then Zoom In; and SMaC Recipe. Overall this book is a good read for those yearning for insight on the holy grail that makes companies great.
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