Great by Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos, and Luck--Why Some Thrive Despite Them All
By Jim Collins and Morten T. Hansen
(HarperBusiness, $29.99, 320 pp.)
In Great by Choice, authors Jim Collins and Morten T. Hansen deliver an excellent follow-up to Collinss bestselling book Good to Great.
For the first two chapters of Great by Choice, the authors share stories of success versus failure. They introduce the 10Xers--organizations that thrived despite uncertainty and chaos. For research purposes, each 10Xer was matched to a comparison organization that faced similar, if not identical, challenges to growth. The 10Xers not only came out ahead of the competition, but they beat their industries averages by at least 10 times.
Throughout the book, Collins and Hansen examine each case to determine a replicable pattern for success. They describe what they call the triad of core behaviors: fanatic discipline, empirical creativity, productive paranoia, and, at the core, the "central motivating force, Level 5 ambition."
Advocating for a back-to-basics approach, Collins and Hansen discuss ideas we all know to be true, but sometimes forget in a moment of uncertainty: Be consistent, make informed decisions, take smart risks, have a plan, and use wisely the opportunities you have been given. These are the habits of the 10Xers, those that became great despite immense challenges and potentially crippling industry uncertainties.
My favorite chapter, "20 Mile March," is when the book really gets into the strategy behind being great by choice. The chapter discusses the concept of the 20-mile march, a paced, consistent journey that neither dips below nor surges ahead of what is manageable in pursuit of goals. The 20-mile march requires fanatic discipline, defined by "the ambition to achieve and the self-control to hold back."
Aside from offering sound business advice, the stories in Great by Choice are at the least interesting and engaging, and mostly downright inspirational (Southwest Airliness incredible success post-9/11, for example). The book almost strikes the chord of a self-help work, offering markers on a path to great achievement for business organizations, while also remaining applicable to one's personal life.
From the first page of the book, readers can expect thought-provoking insight into what is essentially a recipe for greatness, as summed up in the first line: "We cannot predict the future. But we can create it."
I'm not a coffee drinker, so I give this book four out of four cups of salted caramel hot chocolate.