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Review: Great by Choice by Jim Collins

Great by Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos, and Luck--Why Some Thrive Despite Them AllGreat by Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos, and Luck--Why Some Thrive Despite Them All by Jim Collins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is an engaging exploration of why some companies become great while others don't, despite experiencing similar uncertainty, chaos, and “luck”. It shows that greatness depends on action and discipline, not circumstance or luck. Essentially, success depends more on what we do than what the world does to us. This finding is encouraging and empowering, since we often feel that we’re at the mercy of forces outside our control.

I liked the point that one of the most important forms of luck is people luck, or "Who Luck"; having the right mentor, partner, friend, etc. Because the right people can be key to success, I've been trying to expand my network and maintain strong relationships.

I read this for the Holland Chamber of Commerce Business Book Group. Jim Collins is known for his thorough research, and this is no exception. I liked this book more than Good to Great (see my review) because it’s more about individuals than companies, so I found it easier to apply the lessons to myself and my web design business, OptimWise.

Core behaviors of 10Xers
Fanatic discipline: they have relentless focus, independence of mind, and extreme consistency.
Empirical creativity: they base decisions on empirical evidence, not conventional wisdom or authority figures.
Productive paranoia: they’re hyper-vigilant of changes in their environment, and respond with preparation and productive action.
Level 5 ambition: they balance personal humility and professional will. They’re ambitious for a cause greater than themselves.

20 mile march
Hit specified performance markers consistently over the long term. This requires high performance in hard times, and holding back in good times.

Fire bullets, then cannonballs
Once you’ve met your industry’s innovation threshold, being innovative doesn’t matter much.
Bullets are low-risk, low-cost tests to see what will work. Based on the resulting empirical evidence, concentrate your resources and fire a cannonball (a higher-risk, higher-cost action). Be creative, but validate your ideas. Then, keep 20 Mile Marching to make the most of the big success.

Leading above the Death Line
Prepare for bad events by building cash reserves and taking other precautions.
Pay attention to risk and respond to changes.
The sign of mediocrity isn’t unwillingness to change, but chronic inconsistency (always changing with every new trend; being controlled rather than taking control).
“Not all time in life is equal. Life serves up some moments that count much more than other moments. We will all face moments when the quality of our performance matters much more than other moments.”

SMaC
Create a SMaC recipe: a Specific, Methodical, and Consistent success formula, and amend it only rarely. Think of the US Constitution and its amendments.

Return on luck
The authors define luck as a significant, unpredictable event.
10Xers didn’t have more good or bad luck, but they had a better return on luck (ROL).
The question isn’t whether you’ll have luck (good or bad), but what you’ll do with it. The problem isn’t a lack of good luck; it’s failing to execute on it.

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