Monday, September 30, 2013

Great by Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos, and Luck—Why Some Thrive Despite Them All

By Jim Collins and Morten T. Hansen

Book review by Richard L. Weaver II, Ph.D.

Jim Collins has a great reputation going into the writing of this book: "six books that have sold in total more than ten million copies worldwide! Wow!

It is clear why he has been successful, even though I have not read any of his previous bestsellers: Good to Great, Built to Last, and How the Mighty Fail. Great titles, too!

If those books provide a template for this one, it is easy to see why they are bestsellers.

His book, Great by Choice, has 38 pages of incredible notes. There are 14 pages of "Frequently Asked Questions." There are 52 pages on "Research Foundations." And the "Index" is nine pages long. In a book that is 304 pages long, the actual text (narrative) is only 183 pages. This is not an indictment, because the book reads well, the research is effectively presented, the examples are expertly injected into the content, and the "Key Points," "Unexpected Findings," and "Key Questions" used to end each of the seven main chapters of the book are effective.

I loved the emphasis on the discipline, empiricism, and paranoia of leaders (as opposed to the risk takers, visionaries, and more creative). I thought the examination of a leader’s ability to scale innovation and blend creativity with discipline in a chaotic and uncertain world is a useful finding.

When you contrast the kind of leadership style of George W. Bush with that of Barack Obama (or any intellectual), you quickly discover that leading in a fast world does not require fast decisions and fast actions. The best leaders are thoughtful, analytic, patient, and intuitive. That is precisely the kind of leadership that will protect businesses and help them survive.

I loved the thought provoking nature of the book, the numerous practical concepts, and the fact that the findings here are data-driven. There is no question that they clearly prove that greatness happens by choice—and the authors clearly establish how choice can be directed, managed, and controlled. This is clearly a five-star out of five.

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