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Great by Choice CD + Good to Great CD: Why Some Companies Make the Leap...And Others Don't + Built to Last CD: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies
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Product Details

  • Audio CD: 8 pages
  • Publisher: HarperAudio; Unabridged edition (October 11, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062121022
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062121028
  • Product Dimensions: 0.2 x 5 x 5.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (234 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #237,719 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Jim Collins on the Writing Process

When I first embarked on a career that required writing, I devoured dozens of books about the process of writing. I soon realized that each writer has weird tricks and idiosyncratic methods. Some wrote late at night, in the tranquil bubble of solitude created by a sleeping world, while others preferred first morning light. Some cranked out three pages a day, workmanlike, whereas others worked in extended bursts followed by catatonic exhaustion. Some preferred the monastic discipline of facing cinder-block walls, while others preferred soaring views.

I quickly learned that I had to discover my own methods. Most useful, I realized that I have different brains at different times of day. In the morning, I have a creative brain; in the evening, I have a critical brain. If I try to edit in the morning, I’m too creative, and if I try to create in the evening, I’m too critical. So, I go at writing like a two piston machine: create in the morning, edit in the evening, create in the morning, edit in the evening…

Yet all writers seem to agree on one point: writing well is desperately difficult, and it never gets easier. It’s like running: if you push your limits, you can become a faster runner, but you will always suffer. In nonfiction, writing is thinking; if I can’t make the words work, that means I don’t know yet what I think. Sometimes after toiling in a quagmire for dozens (or hundreds) of hours I throw the whole effort into the wastebasket and start with a blank page. When I sheepishly shared this wastebasket strategy with the great management writer Peter Drucker, he made me feel much better when he exclaimed, “Ah, that is immense progress!”

The final months of completing Great by Choice required seven days a week effort, with numerous all-nighters. I had naively hoped after writing Good to Great that perhaps I had learned enough about writing that this work might not require descending deep into the dark cave of despair. Alas, the cave of darkness is the only path to producing the best work; there is no easy path, no shorter path, no path of less suffering. Winston Churchill once said that writing a book goes through five phases. In phase one, it is a novelty or a toy; by phase five, it is a tyrant ruling your life, and just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster and fling him to the public. And so, exiting the caving blinking in the sunlight, we’ve killed the monster and hereby fling. We love this book, and have great passion about sharing it with the world—making all the suffering worthwhile.


A Q&A with Morten T. Hansen

Q: How did you and Jim develop ideas together during the research?

Hansen: During our hundreds of research meetings—what we called “chimposiums” (as when two curious chimps get together), Jim and I probed the data, exchanged views, and debated vigorously. We didn't always agree, in which case we did some more analysis to get to the main findings we report in Great by Choice.

Q: Why did Great by Choice take nine years of effort?

Hansen: When Jim and I started out some nine years ago, we did not anticipate that it would take us this long, nor did we know what the results would be. We followed a simple principle—carry out the absolutely best research we could possibly do, no matter how long.

Q: Did you find what you expected, or surprises?

Hansen: The way we did the research was to explore why some companies attained great performance over the long-run while others did not. We did not start with any preconceived ideas and hypotheses about what made the difference. We let the data speak. What we found, and what we report in the book, surprised us a great deal. A few times we scratched our heads because we were so surprised, but that's what the data revealed.

Q: Did you have fun?

Hansen: Analyzing the data, debating, and arriving at some really interesting insights was a great deal of fun. It created joy in my life. It may not be everyone's idea of having a good time, but Jim and I always looked forward to our chimposiums. I hope you will enjoy Great by Choice as much as Jim and I enjoyed the research process!

--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Review

“A sensible, well-timed and precisely targeted message for companies shaken by macroeconomic crises” (Financial Times)

“Collins and Hansen draw some interesting and counterintuitive conclusions from their research….far from a dry work of social science. Mr. Collins has a way with words, not least with metaphor.” (Wall Street Journal)

Entrepreneurs and business leaders may find the concepts in this book useful for making choices to increase their odds of building a great company. (Booklist) --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

More About the Authors

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Customer Reviews

The book is an easy read and very interesting.
Spencer
I think many principles can be gained from reading this book, and can help transform the way we view the world.
Derek Toone
Jim Collins gave us Good to Great and Built to Last.
Lynn

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

249 of 256 people found the following review helpful By Owen Jackson on October 14, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In Collins' new book he relies on the method you've seen in previous books like Built to Last and Good to Great. What's different in this one is he selected companies not just on their status or explosive growth, but because they succeeded in an extreme and uncertain environment. However, there's a caveat here: his research stopped in 2002, meaning there's no thorough analysis of how companies performed in the last 10 years (aka one of the most uncertain and chaotic business climates in decades). Collins and Hansen believe the future will be unstable and environments will be extreme for the rest of "our lives" (remember, these guys aren't Spring Chickens). So, they try to analyze company performance/greatness within the context of difficulty.

I always wish Amazon would show an easy-to-find Table of Contents for books, so I've created one for you here, complete with a summary of each chapter/section.

1 - THRIVING IN UNCERTAINTY
Collins and Hansen explain what the method for their book (what I described above), including the definition of a 10Xer, which is a company that beat their industry by 10 fold. Just 7 companies were selected as a 10X case out of 20,400 companies. The seven are Amgen, Biomet, Intel, Microsoft, Progressive Insurance, Southwest Airlines, and Stryker. They don't include Apple because their research lens of Apple vs. Microsoft focused primarily on the 1980s and 1990s (remember they stopped collecting data in 2002), which makes no sense to me. The present environment (the one in which Apple has exploded) is a far more difficult climate than the 80s-90s.

2 - 10Xers
Example of a 10xer is Southwest airlines, whose growth since 1972 is greater than that of Walmart, despite this period being a particularly harsh one for the airline industry.
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70 of 77 people found the following review helpful By AdamSmythe on October 11, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Jim Collins is at it again. Collins, along with co-author Morten Hansen and a team of over 20 researchers, spent roughly nine years trying to determine why some companies thrive during chaotic, uncertain and unstable times while other companies do not. If you have read some of Collins' earlier books, the theme in "Great by Choice" certainly won't surprise you. In "Built to Last," published in 1994, Collins, co-author Jerry Porras and their research team wrote about what makes for a "visionary" company, comparing a group of objectively and subjectively defined visionary companies with comparison companies that weren't so visionary. The authors would argue that their company selections were much more objectively chosen, and I wouldn't argue much with that claim. In "Good to Great," published in 2001, Collins and his research team analyzed a number of good companies that took the next step to achieve greatness, while a comparison group of similar companies did not.

In both of these two earlier books, as well in the current one (I'll get to "Great by Choice" presently), the authors conspicuously note how much better the subject companies performed, stock market wise, compared to the comparison companies. However, it is important to realize that Collins and his co-authors are not suggesting that you run out and invest in their subject companies. If you did that for the "Built to Last" companies, your investments would have included Citigroup, Ford, Sony and other companies that subsequently didn't set the world on fire. Similarly, from the "Good to Great" focus companies, Circuit City eventually filled for bankruptcy and Fannie Mae proved to be a major disappointment, in more ways than one.
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45 of 49 people found the following review helpful By Mark P. McDonald VINE VOICE on October 16, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Jim Collins extends and deepens the body of knowledge around the fundamentals of success. Great by Choice represents the second half of Collin's earlier book on company failure - How the Mighty Fall. While that earlier book concentrated on factors that drive failure, this describes the characteristics of sustained success.

This book is classic Collins. Well researched, clearly describes and expertly packaged for executives to incorporate these concepts into their lexicon and thoughts. This book is recommended as the capstone of the study of the fundamentals of great companies.

Great by Choice is a lot like How the Mighty Fall as it's a short, concise and focused book. About half of it is content and half is appendices, FAQs and methodology - just like HtMF. Put the two together and you get a comprehensive look at modern corporate success.

This is a book for understanding and admiring the factors Collin's points out as driving superior performance.

The book describes these factors, but description is not prescription.

This book is not a 'how to' book, nor one that provides much action oriented help. It relies on the reader understanding Collins points and then tailoring them to their situation. That places the burden of value on the reader, which is where it should be as greatness is less a recipe than a recommitment to hard work.

Great by Choice contains a set of core concepts that define the major chapters in the book. Here is a short description of each to provide an idea of what is in Great by Choice and how Collins describes the characteristics of companies that have exceptional performance, what Collins calls 10x.
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