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

by Jim Collins, Morten T. Hansen


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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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062120991
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 10/11/2011
Series: Good to Great , #5
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 42,190
Product dimensions: 6.32(w) x 9.26(h) x 1.01(d)

About the Author

Jim Collins is a student and teacher of what makes great companies tick, and a Socratic advisor to leaders in the business and social sectors. Having invested more than a quarter-century in rigorous research, he has authored or coauthored six books that have sold in total more than 10 million copies worldwide. They include Good to GreatBuilt to LastHow the Mighty Fall, and Great by Choice.

Driven by a relentless curiosity, Jim began his research and teaching career on the faculty at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, where he received the Distinguished Teaching Award in 1992. In 1995, he founded a management laboratory in Boulder, Colorado.

In addition to his work in the business sector, Jim has a passion for learning and teaching in the social sectors, including education, healthcare, government, faith-based organizations, social ventures, and cause-driven nonprofits.

In 2012 and 2013, he had the honor to serve a two-year appointment as the Class of 1951 Chair for the Study of Leadership at the United States Military Academy at West Point. In 2017, Forbes selected Jim as one of the 100 Greatest Living Business Minds.

Jim has been an avid rock climber for more than forty years and has completed single-day ascents of El Capitan and Half Dome in Yosemite Valley.

Learn more about Jim and his concepts at his website, where you’ll find articles, videos, and useful tools.

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.


Boulder, Colorado

Date of Birth:

January 25, 1958

Place of Birth:

Aurora, Colorado


B.S. in mathematical sciences, Stanford University, 1980; M.B.A., Stanford University, 1983

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Great By Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos and Luck--Why Some Thrive Despite Them All 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 20 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.
Kara on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
You should absolutely read this is you're the director of a division or even the manager of a team. It'll provide you with great real-life examples you can use to inspire. (It's particularly exciting if your company is one of the ones studied.)The work behind the book is great. This is not fluffy. It's actually based on data and statistics, and I loved that.
bsanner on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
What is the role of luck in business, leadership, and life? Comparing similar companies in especially chaotic and uncertain industries (health care, airline, computers, etc.) Collins and Hansen¿s research indicates that more than just luck separates the winners and losers. Rather, the winners ¿ labeled 10X companies (those companies that outperformed the industry index by at least 10 times) ¿ exhibited fanatic discipline, empirical creativity, and productive paranoia. 10X companies relied on a durable SMaC (Specific, Methodical, and Consistent) recipe ¿ ¿operating practices that create a replicable and consistent success formula.¿ All companies, organizations, and people have a mix of good and bad luck; based on Collins and Hansen¿s research, 10Xers put themselves in a position to get the best possible return on luck. An insightful, challenging and relevant work ¿ A
mogie on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Solid perspective on what makes for success. Good planning, experience, willing to try new things without throwing away the proven things. Specific Methodical and Consistent plan. Gunshots and then cannon balls.
DanStratton on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Since bursting on the business book scene with Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies, Jim Collins has been a fixture at the top of the business best seller list. His research-based approach to explaining success has struck a chord in the management corridors. I first became aware of Collins after being assigned to read Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap... and Others Don't by my boss. We were attempting to turn a corner with our small company and he hoped this would give us the insight we needed to be successful.I remember watching a presentation by Collins explain the methodology of sorting through the data to find the companies to study. He explained they first looked for a question that really interested him. I can understand the theory. Without a really good question to sustain him and his team of researchers, they wouldn't have the interest to spend several years seeking the answer. And he found a really good puzzle this time. I think this is perhaps his best work.The latest research undertaking was centered around the question: Why do some companies thrive in uncertainty , even chaos, and others do not? He and his team began by looking for enterprises who outperformed their industry averages by at least 10 times. Dubbed the "10Xers", they looked into what caused them to be successful when other, very similar organizations in the same environment, did not. From there, they dug into the lessons they can learn and found similar stories to describe the behavior.He begins be relating the story of the race to the South Pole by Amundsen and Scott. If you are unfamiliar with this story, the analogy alone is worth the read. Amundsen trained for the mission to the South Pole by living with eskimos, experimenting in eating sources of meat available in the Antarctic, learning to travel in snow with dog sleds and other similar preparations. Scott, on the other hand, decided to use ponies without checking see how they would hold up in the harsh conditions (they don't), investing in new, untested technology - motor sledges (the engines cracked within days) and packing lightly on the supplies (1 ton / 17 men compared to Amundsen's 3 tons / 5 men). Amundsen reach the pole first and returned safely with his men before winter set back in. Scott's team, reduced to pulling their sleds by hand, reached the pole over a month later. The entire team died, starving to death two miles from their supply cache.Powerful stories like this are employed throughout the book, each graphically emphasizing the traits of the 10Xer companies. Those traits include:The 20 Mile MarchFire Bullets, Then CannonballsLeading above the Death LineSMaC (Specific, Methodical, and Consistent), andReturn on LuckEach lesson is something that a company leadership has control over. They can replicate the results of these hyper-successful companies, if they choose. That is the key point: Companies can choose to be great. Yes, there is some luck involved, but Collins proves it isn't a matter of getting a lucky break, but what one DOES with any luck, good or bad.I can't possibly do this book justice in the few words of this review. I recommend reading this book more highly than any other book to date. The lessons he teaches are profound and simple. Every step is in reach. I believe this book to be one of the most useful of all the business books I have read. It is applicable to many cases beyond business as well. He discusses other applications to nonbusiness organizations as well. This book should be on a list to be reviewed annually by every leader of an organization. It should be discussed in staff meetings and the concepts implemented everywhere. If you only buy one book on changing an organization, make it this one.
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