Great by Choice

Posted: November 28th, 2013





Great by Choice

Introduction (Thesis)

Being successful is great but reaching that success has been a great challenge to many business and organization leaders. Many have not identified whether leaders, especially business managers, become successful due to hard work alone or luck has a part to play on the success idea. Jim Collins and Morten T. Hansen try to solve this mystery in their article Great by Choice. There is a great difference presence between the succeeding companies and the failing ones. The succeeding companies outperform the failing companies by ‘10X’ as the authors refer to it. ‘10X’ means that the succeeding companies outperform their industry averages by ten times. This article solves the problem around the difference existing between the successful business and the failing business.

Central Pillars

The authors state that the leaders in the successful business/organizations pose three distinct behaviors. They display fanatic discipline, empirical creativity and productive paranoia. All these behaviors can be used in developing three main lessons portrayed by Jack Welch. According to harness leading more and managing less, building a winning organization and harnessing ones people are some of the most fundamental pillars in having a successful organization. Each of the three behaviors can be associated with the three lessons depicted by Welch.

Welch emphasizes that one should lead more and do less of managerial work. This can be elaborated by the three behaviors. These three behaviors need the leaders to lead rather than manage. In a the examples given in the article, Amundsen and Scott, the two people who lead teams to the South Pole, were engaged in leading as compared to managing but they did it in diverse ways. Amundsen was more interesting in reaching his target and coming back home alive while Scott was more interested in breaking a record and proving a point. In the course of the article, the authors show readers how Scott and Marin lead the teams instead of managing them.

In order to build a winning team, Amundsen followed the fanatic discipline. His target was to march for fifteen miles every day. He never let the condition of the day deter the target. On the good days, Amundsen and the team would march for fifteen miles and then rest. He never made the extra miles. On the bad days, they would travel for six or seven miles and then they would rest. However, they still attempted to travel on those bad days. On the other hand, the team led by Scott was quite different. It made a target to march twenty miles per day. On the good days, they would make extra miles while, on the bad days, they would sit around their tents. The fanatic discipline behavior is portrayed by Amundsen. This is what winning leaders leading winning organizations should follow. It is not just a matter of sheer luck.

The empirical creativity encourages the leaders to harness their people’s energies and skills. Amundsen and Scott had a way of approaching the strategy to carry them through that period. Scott bet on using a means that had not been proven at that time. He retrieved to using the motor sledges. As expected, the motor sledges broke down, and the ponies did not make it. This left them to man-haul their sleds for a distance equivalent to the distance from Chicago to New York and back. On the other hand, Amundsen decided to rely on facts. He went to live with the Eskimos who taught him about the clothing to be used. They also advised him to use sleds and dogs, as dogs do not sweat. They also paddle on the snow. Such an approach enables the leader to show the team he/she is leading that it is better relying on the facts than coming up with a strategy that has never been tested or experienced before. The facts give more concrete results that the hypotheses.

The productive paranoia leader is always prepared before hand. For example, Amundsen had an allowance supply in his depot. He had extra supplies that could carry him an extra ten miles in case he lost his way, each day. He made an extra allowance for everything. This kept him and his team going during the unexpected occurrences. On the other hand, Scott’s team did not make the needed allowances. Unfortunately, they all died seven miles before reaching their next supply depot.

The three behaviors have been portrayed by the leaders in some of the successful companies such as the Microsoft Company led by Bill Gates. They enable the leaders to focus on the target, rely on the facts and prepare for unexpected eventualities. All these three enable the leaders to lead more and manage less, build winning organizations and harness the team members or company employees.


The authors try to give a deeper analysis of how Southwest Airlines is topping in the Airline service and the reason behind the Microsoft Company success over Apple especially in the 1980 and the 1990s. Bill Gates prepared for the eventualities experienced after 1994 after he felt that one should always prepare for the worst. Unlike the perception of most people, the authors show that the ‘10X’ companies do not rely on risk-taking. They prepare rigorously for the unpredictable. They also rely on the facts rather than innovating strategies that have not been tested or approved. According to the authors, a successful person cannot be categorized as a lucky person. It is not a strategy. There is a lot of effort, preparation, premeditation and research that has taken place for a leader to be successful. Amundsen had to eat a row dolphin in order to know whether it could be an energy supplement.

Work Cited

Collins, Jim, and Morten T. Hansen. Great by Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos, and Luck? : Why Some Thrive Despite Them All. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers, 2011. Print.

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