Great by Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos, and Luck—Why Some Thrive Despite Them All is a book by Jim Collins and Morten T. Hansen that explores why certain companies not only survive but thrive in turbulent and unpredictable business environments. The book presents a set of key ideas and principles that these successful companies consistently follow. Here are the key ideas from "Great by Choice":
The 10Xers
Collins and Hansen introduce the concept of the "10Xer," which refers to companies that outperform their industry averages by at least ten times during tumultuous times. They focus on identifying what sets these companies apart.
Fanatical Discipline
One of the central ideas in the book is the importance of fanatical discipline in setting and achieving goals. Successful 10Xers exhibit extreme discipline in their actions, strategies, and decisions.
Productive Paranoia
Collins and Hansen discuss the concept of "productive paranoia," where leaders and organizations maintain a high level of vigilance and prepare for potential disruptions, even when things are going well. This mindset helps them navigate uncertainty effectively.
Empirical Creativity
The book emphasizes the need for empirical creativity, which involves making innovation and change decisions based on data and evidence rather than solely on intuition or gut feelings.
Leading Above the Death Line
Successful organizations are described as "leading above the death line," meaning they consistently make decisions and take actions to keep themselves out of danger and build resilience, even in the face of uncertainty.
Return on Luck
Collins and Hansen discuss the concept of "return on luck," suggesting that while luck plays a role in success, what truly matters is how an organization capitalizes on that luck when it occurs. Successful companies are better prepared to leverage unexpected opportunities.
Bullets Before Cannonballs
The book encourages a cautious approach to risk-taking. Companies should start with "bullets" (small, low-risk experiments) before committing to "cannonballs" (major strategic initiatives). This minimizes the downside of potential failures.
20 Mile March
Collins and Hansen introduce the concept of the "20-mile march," which represents a disciplined, consistent approach to progress and performance. Companies that thrive in uncertainty set specific performance markers and consistently meet them, regardless of external conditions.
Fire Bullets, Then Cannonballs
This principle suggests that companies should first experiment with smaller initiatives (fire bullets) to test the waters before investing heavily in larger strategies (firing cannonballs). It's a way to balance innovation and risk.
Leading with a SMaC Recipe
SMaC stands for Specific, Methodical, and Consistent, and it refers to a set of clear and well-defined operating principles that guide a company's actions and decisions, even in chaotic environments.
10X Companies as Role Models
Collins and Hansen provide detailed case studies of companies that exemplify the 10X principles, such as Southwest Airlines and Amgen, and illustrate how these organizations have succeeded in tumultuous times.

"Great by Choice" provides valuable insights and a framework for achieving exceptional performance in uncertain and chaotic environments. It emphasizes the importance of discipline, empirical decision-making, and a proactive approach to managing risk and change.