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Great by Choice [Summary & Takeaways]

by The Quick Book Summary Team
3 minutes read

Main Topic

The book “Great by Choice” by Jim Collins and Morten T. Hansen explores why certain individuals and companies thrive in the face of uncertainty, chaos, and luck.

Key Ideas or Arguments

  • 10x Companies: Collins and Hansen introduce the concept of “10x” companies—organizations that outperform industry benchmarks by at least tenfold.
  • Fanatic Discipline: The authors emphasize the importance of discipline, detailing how successful leaders maintain consistency and focus in their strategies.
  • Productive Paranoia: The book highlights the significance of being prepared for unexpected challenges through productive paranoia, where leaders anticipate potential risks and plan accordingly.
  • Empirical Creativity: Successful entities blend creativity with empirical validation, relying on evidence-based decision-making rather than intuition.

Chapter Titles or Main Sections

  1. Thriving in Uncertainty: The opening chapter sets the stage, defining the challenges of uncertainty and introducing the central theme of the book.
  2. 10x Companies: Collins and Hansen identify common traits among 10x companies and delve into their strategies for sustained success.
  3. 20-Mile March: This chapter introduces the concept of the 20-mile march, advocating for consistent progress and avoiding the pitfalls of erratic decision-making.
  4. Fire Bullets, Then Cannonballs: The authors discuss the importance of testing strategies on a small scale before committing significant resources, encouraging adaptability.
  5. Leading above the Death Line: Exploring the risks of catastrophic failure, this section offers insights into effective risk management and crisis navigation.
  6. SMaC Recipe: Collins and Hansen introduce a Specific, Methodical, and Consistent (SMaC) approach to business that fosters stability and adaptability.

Great by Choice

by Jim Collins and Morten T. Hansen


Key Takeaways

  1. Discipline and Consistency: Successful companies exhibit disciplined consistency in their strategies, avoiding unnecessary risks.
  2. Balancing Creativity and Evidence: Achieving greatness requires combining creativity with empirical validation for informed decision-making.
  3. Risk Management: Effective risk management is crucial, with an emphasis on preparation and adaptability.

Author’s Background and Qualifications

Jim Collins is a management thought leader and author of several bestsellers, including “Good to Great.” Morten T. Hansen, a management professor, co-authored “Great by Choice” and is known for his expertise in innovation.

Comparison to Other Books

“Great by Choice” stands out for its focus on empirical validation and disciplined consistency, distinguishing it from other works on business strategy and leadership.

Target Audience

This book is ideal for business leaders, entrepreneurs, and anyone interested in understanding the principles that drive success in uncertain and chaotic environments.

Reception or Critical Response

“Great by Choice” received positive reviews for its practical insights and well-researched approach to navigating business challenges.

Publisher and First Published Date

Published by HarperCollins, “Great by Choice” first appeared in 2011.


  1. Good to Great” by Jim Collins.
  2. Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell.

To Sum Up

The biggest takeaway from “Great by Choice” is the necessity of disciplined consistency, empirical validation, and effective risk management for individuals and companies to thrive amidst uncertainty and chaos.

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