About the speaker: Jim Collins is a student of enduring great companies. An internationally recognized thought leader, he is the author of the leadership classics Built to Last and Good to Great. He does his groundbreaking work at his own research lab in Boulder, CO. His newest release, Great by Choice, answers the penetrating question, Why do some companies thrive in uncertainty, even chaos, and others do not?
Great by Choice
What do highly successful organizations have in common?
Jim says it starts with “Level 5 Leaders”: those who have humility coupled to will.
But it takes more. Here are the three drivers for “10x companies”, those that outperform others by a factor of 10:
Fanatic discipline: doing what isn’t easy when it isn’t easy and doing it with dogged persistence.
“If there is one chapter to read from my new work Great by Choice, read the chapter about the 20 mile march.” (For background material click here.) That is the ability to undertake difficult but critically important tasks and execute them consistently. “The true mark of mediocrity is chronic inconsistency.”
Empirical Creativity: learning, trying things and testing the results. The key word is empirical (“based on, concerned with, or verifiable by observation or experience rather than theory or pure logic”).
“The ‘genius of the and’ is the ability to blend creativity and discipline.” Creativity is natural but discipline is not. The key is the ability to marry the two.
Productive Paranoia: translating paranoia into preparation and buffers for when times are tough. “It is what you do in good times to prepare for bad times so that you can be strong when people most need you.”
“Underlying it all is a motivating force: passion and ambition for a cause or company larger than yourself.”
The twist: “Think of an event that hit you or your enterprise that meets three tests. One, you didn’t cause it. Two, it had a potentially significant consequence. Three, it had an element of surprise. It was unpredictable. Then ask yourself as a leader how well you performed in the face of it.”
Jim said his research lead him to a great question: what is the role of luck? Could the difference between 2X and 10X success that people just got lucky?
He decided to define, quantify and study luck. It meets the same three way test above, but with a positive outcome.
“What we found is that the great companies weren’t luckier. The same events happen to everyone. It is about what you do when these unpredictable, consequential events come.”
Was Bill Gates the only lucky one when the PC first came out? Lots had the same opportunity, but Gates worked hard to create the basic app and then worked for 25 years to build the company.
“Most companies squander the good events and leave themselves exposed to the bad events.”
Jim has concluded that 10x performance is about superior performance in the face of disruption: how to use a bad event as a defining moment to transform and deepen your purpose.
“Greatness is first and foremost a matter of conscious choice and discipline.”
Reflect on these questions:
What distinctive impact are you making? Who would miss you if you went away?
Are you able to achieve enduring success?
To the leader, Jim says, “An organization is not truly great if it cannot be great without you.”
“In the end, it is impossible to have a great life unless it is a meaningful life.”
Live and lead in a way that when the end of your life comes, you will know that it mattered.