Jim Collins is a bestselling author, business guru and a great storyteller. This book is not short of great stories and lessons.

The central thesis of this is answering the question: Why do some companies thrive in uncertainty, and chaos and others don’t.

Reading this book now during current uncertain times and chaos makes more sense.

Jim’s books are more about research done and it’s research outcomes are then converted into books.

Great By Choice is not different. Jim Collins, Morten Hansen and their research teams have interviewed thousands of executives and reviewed thousands of historical documents.

Some of my favourite chapters and topics are:

  • The 20 Mile March
  • Return on Luck
  • 10Xers

Some of the lessons to take from this book are:

  • Uncertainty is permanent
  • The worst will always be around the corner
  • Chaotic times are normal
  • Change is accelerating

Based on this book, leadership teams that expect some kind of crisis will fare much better.

One of highlight of the book for me is the story the race to the South Pole between Roald Amundsen and Robert Falcon Scott. One won the race and the other perished.



I loved this book. It is an actionable book. It has great stories, insights, and business tools that are important for leadership journeys.

My challenge with this book is that it is descriptive than prescriptive. Collins and Hansen basically are describing what they discovered, it does not prescribe what they thing should be done and expected.

My other challenge with Jim Collins’s books is that they are more about established executive and experienced leadership teams. His books are limited on how to build a great team.

For instance Jim will say get the right team in the bus and in the right sets, but he does not explain how do you find or create the right team. He does not explain how to put them in the right seats.

I loved this book, but I loved Good to Great more.

CEOs and executive teams will find this book very useful especially during these turbulent COVID-19 times.

Favourite Quotes

  • “We can control only a tiny sliver of what happens to us, but even so, we are free to choose, free to become great by choice.”
  • “Far more difficult than implementing change is figuring out what works, understanding why it works, grasping when to change, and knowing when not to.”
  • “When you marry operating excellence with innovation, you multiply the value of your creativity.”
  • “Victory awaits him who has everything in order, luck people call it. Defeat is certain for him who has neglected to take the necessary precautions in time; this is called bad luck.”
  • “The idea that leading in a “fast world” always requires “fast decisions” and “fast action” and that we should embrace an overall ethos of “Fast! Fast! Fast!” is a good way to get killed. 10X leaders figure out when to go fast, and when not to.”
  • “Why 20 Mile Marchers win? 20 Mile Marching helps turn the odds in your favor for three reasons: 1. It builds confidence in your ability to perform well in adverse circumstances. 2. It reduces the likelihood of catastrophe when you’re hit by turbulent disruption. 3. It helps you exert self-control in an out-of-control environment.”
  • “Discipline, in essence, is consistency of action, consistency with values, consistency with long-term goals, consistency with performance standards, consistency of method, consistency over time. Discipline is not the same as regimentation. Discipline is not the same as measurement. Discipline is not the same as hierarchical obedience or adherence to bureaucratic rules. True discipline requires the independence of mind to reject pressures to conform in ways incompatible with values, performance standards, and long-term aspirations. For a 10Xer, the only legitimate form of discipline is self-discipline, having the inner will to do whatever it takes to create a great outcome, no matter how difficult.”

4 thoughts on “Book Review: Great By Choice by Jim Collins and Morten T. Hansen 

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