Great by Choice

Great by Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos, and Luck—Why Some Thrive Despite Them All
by Jim Collins and Morten T. Hansen

He’s b-a-c-k-k-k-k-k! In 1994, he gave us Built to Last (Successful Habits of Visionary Companies), followed by the worldwide bestseller Good to Great (Why Some Companies Make the Leap … and Others Don’t). In 2009, it was How the Mighty Fall (Any Why Some Companies Never Give In).

With a track record like that, who better to take us to the next level? Now, teaming with co-author Morten T. Hansen and a team of more than 20 researchers, Jim Collins returns with nine years of research, rigorous analysis, and engaging stories focused on the principles for building a truly great business in today’s unpredictable, chaotic, and ever-changing times.

This talented team spent years trying to determine why some companies thrive during unstable times while other companies do not. In previous books, Collins and his associates highlighted some companies that later on lost their way. This, of course, has, can, and will continue to happen for a variety of reasons.

The point is that we, as readers, can learn a great deal from what these companies did during their periods of success, regardless of what may happen to them in the future.

In Great by Choice, Collins and Hansen select just seven companies (out of an initial list of more than 20,000) as examples of those that have thrived during chaotic times. The companies are Amgen, Biomet, Intel, Microsoft, Progressive Insurance, Southwest Airlines and Stryker. These companies are called “10X” companies, given that their stock prices outdistanced the comparison companies by roughly an order of magnitude during the study period.

You might be surprised by some of the provocative study results, such as:

  • The best leaders were actually more disciplined and even more paranoid than most. They weren’t necessarily more risk-taking, visionary, or creative as many may have guessed.
  • Leading in a “fast world” doesn’t necessarily require “fast decisions” nor “fast action.” In fact, both strategies could result in the demise of any organization.
  • Great companies actually changed less in reaction to a radically changing world than their competitors.

Collins and Hansen may catch many readers off guard in their last chapter as they define, quantify, and study the role of “luck” in achieving success. They found that great companies and leaders weren’t necessarily luckier than their competition, but they did achieve a higher Return on Luck.

If you’re familiar with Collins’ work, you know to expect new expressions and buzz words to surface in each new project. This one, of course, is no exception. As the authors challenge conventional wisdom with thought-provoking, practical concepts, you’ll soon get acquainted with the following terminology: 10Xers; the 20-Mile March; Fire bullets, Then Cannonballs; Leading Above the Death Line; Zoom Out, Then Zoom In; and the SMaC Recipe.

If you’re a Collins fan, you’ll more than likely enjoy this book as well. If you’re new to his work and want to learn what makes companies tick, you couldn’t start with a better author. Check out his earlier work as well. You’ll learn that, even in a chaotic and uncertain world, greatness happens by choice, not chance!

Great by Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos, and Luck–Why Some Thrive Despite Them All is available from Amazon. The AchieveMax® company is an affiliate of

About Harry K. Jones

Harry K. Jones is a motivational speaker and consultant for AchieveMax®, Inc., a company of professional speakers who provide custom-designed seminars, keynote presentations, and consulting services. Harry's top requested topics include change management, customer service, creativity, employee retention, goal setting, leadership, stress management, teamwork, and time management. For more information on Harry's presentations, please call 800-886-2629 or fill out our contact form.

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