Great By Choice

The Great Jim Collins is at it again. The author of “Good to Great” and “Built to Last” has brought us another installment in his collection of business and leadership development owner’s manuals. In “Great by Choice”, Collins takes us through the development of ambition and its equated value to 10x Leadership. With the support of well-developed and nurtured statistics “Great by Choice” shows us that winning is not a guessing game but a commitment. Jim Collins identifies 3 main characteristics to ambition at the highest level:

  • Fanatic Discipline
  • Productive Paranoia
  • Empirical Creativity

While Jim Collins has years of evidence to support the equation of the aforementioned characteristics to individual and team success, my approach is less scientific. This week, I figured I would try to put an every-day-Joe spin on Great by Choice. The following is an expenditure of the ideas Collins has researched and presented as they have been applicable to my professional development.

Fanatic Discipline

Organization, Time Management, and Hard Work…these are the defensible traits of winning. As an advisor to young people in a variety of trades my advice to success always circles back to the discipline of hard work. Putting the pedal to the metal is a skill set everyone has at their disposal.

So take working hard a step further. I remember being in a position where each day was met with 10 tasks. I would not leave the office until said tasks were completed. Over time, 10 tasks became 40. Each and every day, I chipped away at the task list…little by little. I was the first person in the office and the last to leave. Then, our Vice President came to town and handed me a contract. He told me he wanted me to head a major account team. I told him thank you but was reluctant to take the reigns because I felt I didn’t earn it. “Yes you did” he retorted. The fanatic part of hard work is doing everything you possibly can to succeed, especially when others are not looking!

Productive Paranoia  

I must say that Jim Collins caught me off guard with this premise. How can paranoia be productive? He goes on to explain that knowing market conditions and predicting trends is an essential part of being great. Anticipating your opponent’s next move on the chess board is essential to planning your next move.

I recently told a story of a person who consistently challenges her commission statements. Each month she marches into the GM’s office with a stack full of papers and finds an additional $35. She admits it’s not the dough but the principle. When I told her VP of Sales that she was wasting her time, he told me that she has been consistently successful for 30 years because she always has her eyebrow raised….a prime example of productive paranoia.

Empirical Creativity

In this day and age, finding a door where others see a dead end is a key element of sustainable success. I always hear about people who play in a band after work, paint or teach a class. The energy behind our after hours hobbies are the creative accelerators that help us find the door.

Many times I have expressed the rival characteristics I possess: creative spirit and competitive drive. Collins helps bring symphony to these opposing skill sets. Empirical creativity brings a disciplined process to fueled idealism.

In summation:

  • The willingness to work hard is the best characteristic anyone can possess
  • Know your market and anticipate the next move
  • Create where others do not recognize opportunity

It is always important to ascertain how the Big Ideas apply to your little world.

Thank You for reading!

Dave Kovacovich