"Great By Choice" by Jim Collins

Review by Borodutch

Once again, we are returning to the saga of "what did large successful companies do or did not do so that they became so fortunate?" As usual, this book reads outdated (after all, the author wrote it in 2011), and the company examples are hit-and-miss. I guess this fate awaits anyone who analyzes business ventures with the scientific method. Business is a chaotic system — even the slightest input changes produce highly variable outputs.

In this book, the author confronts the question, "So why did all these great companies you told us about fail?" He replies: "Well, they were great at the time of writing, but then they went downhill for various reasons." An interesting take, but it sounds more like an excuse than an actual reason. Nevertheless, here's what 10x companies (the ones that beat the market by over 10x) did that others didn't:

  1. Plan, be prepared for the worst, and execute with utmost discipline
  2. Innovate intelligently: fire bullets (small experiments), and if they bring benefits, fire cannonballs (double down hard on ideas that got traction)
  3. Don't rely on luck but always be prepared to seize the opportunities (yes, the author quotes Eminem in this book)

This time, Jim tries to do something different: instead of dryly analyzing companies, he provides us with analogies to real individual people. Mostly mountain climbers and South Pole explorers, but still. And it kind of works because reading this book wasn't as dull as reading the previous manuscripts.

This book could be an essay, but the author goes into depth to justify his learnings with multiple examples of the companies that support the arguments. I would love to see Jim and his team providing counter-evidence to his findings the next time, but now I'd recommend reading quick summaries of "Great By Choice" rather than the entire book.