Great by Choice Book Summary - Great by Choice Book explained in key points
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Great by Choice summary

Jim Collins Morten T. Hansen

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

4.4 (168 ratings)
17 mins

Brief summary

Great by Choice by Jim Collins and Morten T. Hansen is a management book that examines why some companies thrive in uncertainty while others fail. It shares insights and strategies for building a successful organization in turbulent times.

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    Great by Choice
    Summary of 8 key ideas

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    In unpredictable business environments, companies that are well prepared prevail.

    In 1911, two teams set off on a race to become the first explorers to reach the South Pole. One team, lead by Roald Amundsen got there first, planted the Norwegian flag, and returned safely. Robert Falcon Scott’s team arrived at the pole 34 days later. Losing the race was devastating, but things got even worse on the journey back. They never made it home; every member of the team froze to death.

    So why did these two teams have such different fates?

    Preparation was one major difference. Amundsen was obsessive in preparing for the trek and spent years beforehand scouring the globe for useful knowledge; for example, he learned the art of polar survival from Eskimos and tried every potential food source, even dolphin. On their trek, his team carried extra supplies as insurance against delays and carefully marked their supply depots with black flags which stood out against the white landscape. Amundsen hadn’t known exactly what the Antarctic would throw at them, but he had made sure his team was as prepared as they could be. In short, he left very little to chance.

    Scott’s team, however, carried only a fraction of the provisions compared to Amundsen’s team; leaving them at risk of starvation should unexpected delays occur. Whereas Amundsen relied on proven Eskimo technology like dog sleds, Scott used untested technologies like motor sledges, which failed in the extreme conditions. This lack of preparation, both in acquiring knowledge and in carrying sufficient supplies, led to delays, failure and eventually death. 

    Just as Amundsen and Scott faced uncertain conditions in the Antarctic, companies too face turbulent and ever-changing environments. Don’t let conditions determine your success; prepare to survive and thrive in any environment. The way to succeed is to follow Amundsen’s example: be prepared for any eventuality.

    In unpredictable business environments, companies that are well prepared prevail.

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    What is Great by Choice about?

    The world is an uncertain place, constantly changing and often chaotic. While many companies are unable to survive in this chaos, some companies are not only able to survive in these shifting conditions but even thrive in them. Great by Choice analyses why these companies succeed while most others fail. 

    Great By Choice is the result of exhaustive, in-depth research into the business environment. It argues that success is not the result of a company being more innovative, bold or open to taking risks, nor is it a result of mere luck or chance. Success in fact comes from a mixture of discipline, evidence-based innovation and a fear of failure that borders on paranoia. It is this recipe, rather than luck, which enables certain companies to become great.

    Great by Choice Review

    Great by Choice (2011) explores the traits and strategies that separate high-performing companies from their less successful counterparts, offering valuable insights for business leaders. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • Through extensive research and analysis, it uncovers the specific behaviors and characteristics that enable companies to thrive in uncertain and chaotic environments.
    • With its compelling stories of success and failure, the book brings the concepts to life and demonstrates their real-world applicability.
    • The authors provide a practical framework for readers to implement the lessons and strategies outlined in the book, making it actionable and relevant.

    Who should read Great by Choice?

    • Anyone looking for the secrets of long-term success in business
    • Anyone wanting to know the role that luck or chance plays in achieving success
    • Anyone wanting to know how great companies thrive even in turbulent environments 

    About the Author

    Jim Collins is a business consultant and author of many bestsellers including Good to Great and Built to Last. His books have sold over ten millions copies worldwide. He now operates a management laboratory where he conducts research and teaches.

    Morten T. Hansen is a management professor at the University of California. He is the author of Collaboration: How Leaders Avoid the Traps, Build Common Ground and Reap Big Results.  He consults and gives talks for companies across the globe.

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    Great by Choice FAQs 

    What is the main message of Great by Choice?

    The main message of Great by Choice is that successful companies thrive in uncertainty by practicing disciplined decision-making and maintaining a high level of performance.

    How long does it take to read Great by Choice?

    The reading time for Great by Choice varies depending on the reader, but it typically takes several hours. However, the Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Great by Choice a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Great by Choice is worth reading as it provides valuable insights into how successful companies navigate uncertainty and achieve exceptional results.

    Who is the author of Great by Choice?

    The authors of Great by Choice are Jim Collins and Morten T. Hansen.

    What to read after Great by Choice?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Great by Choice, here are some recommendations we suggest:
    • Built to Last by Jim Collins
    • The Discomfort Zone by Farrah Storr
    • Good to Great by Jim Collins
    • How the Mighty Fall by Jim Collins
    • Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim
    • How to Fail by Elizabeth Day
    • ReWork by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson
    • Beyond Entrepreneurship 2.0 by Jim Collins and Bill Lazier
    • Get Better at Anything by Scott H. Young
    • 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do by Amy Morin