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Great by Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos and Luck - Why Some Thrive Despite Them All
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
I'm a huge fan of the work of Jim Collins and can say with all honesty that 'Good to Great' still ranks as the most useful business / management book that I've ever read.

However (you could feel that was coming), his current book 'Great by Choice' is just too complicated to listen to / read.

It is packed to the brim with models, examples, cross-references, more examples, and cliché after cliché after cliché, all of which distract you from the core messages - which are extremely valuable and helpful to anyone in business.

In my opinion this book is a complete contrast to the smooth, calm, logical and clear delivery that everyone remembers from 'Good to Great' and (to a slightly lesser degree) 'Built to Last.'

Even the narration style of Collins on the audio version of this book is jumpy, which is completely unlike his previous audio books.

It's a shame as the evidence (as always) is compelling and offers a valuable insight into successful management approaches in volatile markets.

Unlike the other books of Jim Collins, I unfortunately will not be recommending this one - sorry Jim!

P.S. Overall though, I'm still a huge fan!
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
TOP 100 REVIEWERon 11 October 2011
For as long as I can remember, Jim Collins has been a research-driven business thinker. In each of his prior books, he and his associates (usually Morten Hansen among them) shared what was revealed during many years of research to learn the answer to an especially important question. For Built to Last, it was "Why are some companies able to achieve and sustain success through multiple generations of leaders, across decades and even centuries?"; in Good to Great, "Why do some companies make the leap from good to great... and others don't?"; then in How the Might Fall, "How and why do some once great companies fall and other companies never get in to the same challenges, problems, and setbacks?"; and now in Great by Choice, "Why do some companies thrive in uncertainty, even chaos, and others do not?"

Collins, Hansen, and their colleagues conducted a nine-year study (2002-2011) and share with they learned. Here are the findings that caught my eye:

1. For reasons best revealed within the book's narrative, in context, some companies and leaders thrive in chaos. Those on whom the book focuses have out-performed their industry's index by at least 10 times and (key point) under extreme conditions shared with others in the same industry.

2. Characterized as "10X" companies, those selected were paired [a near-perfect match] -- for purposes of both comparison and contrast - with companies during "eras of dynastic performance that ended in 2002, not the companies as they are today. It's entirely possible that by the time you read these words, one or two of the companies on the list [i.e. Amgen, Biomet, Intel, Microsoft, Progressive Insurance, Southwest Airlines, and Stryker] has stumbled, falling from greatness."

3. The research invalidates well-entrenched myths (see Pages 9-10) with regard to the 10X companies and their leaders. For example, "the evidence does not support the premise that 10X companies will necessarily be more innovative than their less successful comparisons [during the same timeframe]; and in some cases, the 10X cases were [begin italics] less [end italics] innovative."

4. Leaders of 10X companies display three core behaviors that, in combination, distinguish them from the leaders of le4ss successful comparison companies. They also call to mind Level 5 leadership, examined in detail in Good to Great. Specifically, 10Xers exemplify fanatic discipline ("utterly relentless, monomaniacal, unbending in their focus on their quests"), empirical creativity (reliance on "direct observation, practical experimentation, and direct engagement with tangible evidence"), and productive paranoia (channeling their fear and worry into action, preparing, developing contingency plans, building buffers, and maintaining large margins of safety").

5. In the Epilogue, Collins and his associates acknowledge their sense that "a dangerous disease" is infecting today's culture, incorrectly suggesting that greatness "owes more to circumstance, even luck, than to action and discipline." Yes, they agree, good or bad luck plays a role for everyone, including 10Xers and Level Fivers. However, they offer an eloquent reassurance that many of us need to hear: "The greatest leaders we've studied throughout all our research cared as much about values as victory, as much about purpose as profit. As much about being useful as being successful. Their drive and stamina are ultimately internal, rising from where deep inside."

Organizations do not make choices, their leaders do, and the fate of those organizations depends on the quality of the choices those leaders make, especially amidst uncertainty, chaos, and luck...three realities that even the best leaders can only manage rather than control. That is the challenge but also the opportunity to which the book's title refers. The single most important difference between the 10X companies that Collins and Hansen discuss and tho0se with which they are compared/contrasted is that those who lead them make better choices and build and then sustain a culture within which everyone else does.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 9 June 2014
Jim Collins has overdone his methodology. When he released "Good to Great" there were good messages that came out of his research. These messages could be translated into corporate actions. However in this book, I struggled to read it - it simply failed to hold my attention from the opening chapter and by little under half way, I put it down hoping to re-visit it - but three monbths down the line the book is still where I left it, the book mark is still less than half way and I cannot stir myself to pick it up an dfinish off reading it.

That says it all. It will be given away to Oxfam this week - it is simply a waste of money. Jim Collins has over-hacked an outdated methodology. What was good at the time of Good to Great is old hat now. I will not be buying anything from Jim Collins until he change his methodology and does somethign different. Even his read "How the Mighty Fall" didn't do it for me. Save tyour money. If you've not read Good to Great I'd recommend that as a good read. The other follow on work from Jim Collins? Forget it. No value in those works whatsoever.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERon 29 December 2011
Jim Collins's masterwork, 'Good to Great' is by a fair distance the business book I have ever read. So i started reading Great by Choice with real anticipation of fresh insights which would help me and others be more effective leaders- and this book does deliver that to some extent.

Collins builds on Good to Great, but only in passing. Instead he concentrates here on the key factors which have enabled some organisations to outperform their competitors during times of turbulence and change by 10 times or more - what the author calls the 10 Xers.

The conclusions may be surprising...success in turbulent times comes from cautious growth, limited amounts of innovation, and persistence in keeping doing the right things - rather than from sudden breakthroughs or adaptions.

So useful stuff, which may help us avoid howling errors...but not for me, at least, inspiring in the way that I found Good to Great to be.

If you haven't read Good to Great you really should...if you have, and you were excited by it, you should read Great by Choice too. But don't expect to be inspired in quite the same way.

Good To Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap... and Others Don't
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In Collin's "Built to Last", vision and values were key factors. In "Good to Great" even though at the start Collins believed the CEO had little influence, research showed the CEO was a key factor. In "Great by Choice" the CEO disappeared as a factor other than being ambitious. The "Apple" case is made to fit the his "recipes" for success. Jobs hired John Sculley, a marketing expert and Vice President of Pepsi to become the CEO of Apple. In Collin's terminology, Jobs "got the wrong man on the bus". When Jobs came back, he had become a better manager. He had been highly successful after leaving Apple and gained self-confidence. He realized that he had made a mistake, and that he could lead the company as the CEO. This case certainly demonstrates the importance of having the right CEO.

However, this book is definitely not a waste of time. One of the great values is a long list of questions CEOs should ask about their own company. Therefore also read the Research Foundations chapter too. Answering the question will give additional insights about what to change and improve.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 26 April 2012
After reading 'Good to Great' I realised that I didn't want to spend my life on someone else's bus and set up my own small business. Trying to lay the right foundations for growth is a challenge, especially in the current economic climate. This book has been instrumental in showing me what to focus on and how to structure my priorities. Thank you Mr.Collins.
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on 20 September 2012
For fans of Good to Great who are wary of reading something that may muddy the waters of the mind by offering yet another set of secrets of greatness, I'd say you have nothing to fear. Collins and Hansen do sharpen their understanding of the key principles by looking at how the best firms cope with extreme conditions, but Great by Choice doesn't overturn the findings of their previous classic.

By way of help, it has an excellent FAQ section that connects the ideas of Great by Choice to those of Good to Great, which I found helpful.

Overall, it's interesting, well-written and recommended. Not too long either (the main part of the book is only 184 pages).
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on 8 April 2012
Tha is another excellent book by Jim Collins who has made understanding success in building and developing business easier. Personally I couldn't put it down. We now have all our managers and executives in our company reading this book. We are also shipping out over 1500 copies of this book to select CEOs of organisations we like to secure as our clients.
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on 22 November 2013
The book and research offer valuable insight, which in my experience, is something not grasped or understood by most businesses I deal with. Having some sort of research behind the ideas helps to educate and reinforce these types of ideas which are missing our borrow hungry culture.
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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
In Jim Collin's latest book, Great by Choice, he wants to sell us seven characteristics that allow his seven chosen companies to become great over a decade competing in chaotic markets. In just one example, using data prior to 2002 he dismisses Apple and praises Microsoft as one of his hero companies. Even now, with the evidence clear that Jobs had a better subsequent decade than Ballmer, Collins maintains Apple was successful not because of creativity but because of number focused discipline.

This is interesting in at least a couple of ways. First, it's easy to find reasons after events to explain anything. Some people keep their claims so vague that everyone fits the model; others distort their findings to fit the specific claims of their model. My research may do both but it tries to explain what I have found in a model that is clear but also general. The aim is not to prove my ideas are right but to understand how social groups adapt in effective and less effective ways.

Second, it's easy to fall into the hero trap. It's easy to believe that some leaders or organizations will always succeed, that they are somehow better than the rest. It's easy to be fooled by a particular set of traits that worked for some people for a particular point in time.

The author describes his conclusions as counter intuitive (because Harvard Business Review likes that word) and then tell us pretty much what he told us in the previous book. He tells us what non-creative leaders love to hear. Collins chooses seven characteristics and seven companies. He likes his leaders to be empirical, disciplined and rely on evidence not gut instinct. He likes level-headed, slow changing organizations. He rates tortoises ahead of hares.

Yet nothing is fixed. The kind of characteristic he selects has little to do with ways of learning and everything to do with ways of doing. He has picked a static list of behaviours, when adapting is about dynamic change.
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