Leadership Library: Great by Choice

Leadership Library: Great by Choice


Jim Collins and his co-author, Morten Hansen focus their new book on organizations that outperformed their peers by a factor of ten or more, during periods of extreme industry turbulence and stress.

Great by Choice draws on the well-documented experiences of two arctic expeditions in the early part of the 20th century: one planted its flag on the South Pole and returned safely. The other lost the race and ended up in tragedy. The authors make a compelling argument that luck was not the deciding factor in the fate of the two expeditions. The premise of the book is that great leaders – and great organizations – are constantly positioning themselves to weather the storms and take advantage of favorable weather conditions. Even though this seems like an “obvious conclusion” hardly worthy of a whole book, powerful and counterintuitive insights emerge as the authors compare and contrast attitudes, styles and behaviors of expedition leaders and their counterparts in the corporate world.

Several of these insights resonate with our experience and practice at Schaffer Consulting. One of the book`s insights, “firing bullets, then cannonballs”, is about constantly experimenting with low cost, low-risk, and rapid projects, in order to discover and validate business models before “betting the farm.” The concept goes beyond piloting – it is about a mindset of incremental innovation, followed by commitments to make major investments when conditions are favorable. Schaffer Consulting`s Rapid Results Initiatives emerge from a similar perspective on what it takes to drive change, innovation, and ultimately success in uncertain times. These Rapid Results Initiatives – or “100-day projects” – provide a structured way to put this concept into practice.

For more information, see Harvard Business Review article “Why Good Project Fail Anyway”, by Nadim Matta and Ron Ashkenas.

Leave a Comment