Uncertainty, Chaos and Luck – Why Some Thrive Despite Them All

Review Review Review Review Review

Author: Jim Collins and Morten Hansen

I’ve loved Collin’s other two books, Good to Great, and Built to Last so I had to read his latest and I have to say, it is yet again, another great book.  Great by Choice looks at the decisions and choices that great leaders of their successful companies have made compared to their same industry counterparts who have not been successful.  These great companies and leaders and labelled 10 Xers, as they outperform the industry by 10 times!  All of Collin’s books are based on tons of imperical evidence and data that he uses as the foundation for his writing.  I really like this style as it shows not only does he have some grand claims to make but they have a basis well past personal experience and opinions, unlike many other books on the topic of leadership.

So, there are three main categories of choices that these great leaders and companies are found to make:

1. Fanatic Discipline: Choices and decisions that don’t waver and are based on solid core values, methods and systems, all while staying committed to growth over a long term.

2. Empirical Creativity: Finding solutions is based on observations, trials and experimentation.  One area described in this is of the term firing bullets first (the test and trials), then the canon balls (which finish the goal in a BIG way).

3. Productive Paranoia: They are critical thinkers, taking precautions and tweaking their business even when things are booming to ensure stable futures, positive outcomes and maximum return no matter what the situation.

These points and conclusions are outlined by many actions, stories and methods these businesses conducted and it is certainly not all intuitive results.  The most visionary leaders weren’t the cream of the crop, luck towards competitors and against the 10Xers still did not stop them, and despite all odds, the choices set forth by these companies with discipline, left a much bigger mark on success.  There is a lot to learn from the book and these companies in the massive dataset explored.  Even though the research ended in 2002, long before the trying times of the end of the decade, Collin’s findings and books have proven to be applicable in long term markets, despite recent swings and volatility.

A lot of the lessons in the case studies demonstrate how these companies manage chaos well and have continued to be examples in these recent years.  Its an interesting book with valuable research and something everyone can learn from to manage some of the chaos around them and lead themselves and their companies.  I highly recommend you reading it as well!

Prev: Learning, Humility and Leadership
Next: Locking in the Drive of Persistence