One of the interesting aspects of the Catalyst conferences, setting them apart from some of the other conferences that we church folk commonly attend, is the fact that they invite leaders from the business sector and other disciplines outside of the church to come and share. This year, one of the speakers was Jim Collins. Collins is a former Stanford faculty member who has done years and years of empirical research in the business realm. He is also a best-selling author. One of his most notable books is Good To Great.
Recently, Collins released his latest book entitled Great By Choice. His session revolved around the research he did for this book. I was so impressed by the session, I bought the book myself. I will share the crusty crumbs and then offer my comments:
Good is the enemy of great.
- The central idea from his Good To Great book. The idea is that successful businesses/churches/organizations don’t settle for good. They strive for great. Those that settle for good enough sacrifice greatness.
Why do some thrive in the face of uncertainty and others do not?
- The theme of Great By Choice.
Life is people. Change the what question into a who question. You need to get the right people on the bus, in the right seats, headed in the right direction.
- Successful people and organizations realize that life is not about certain practices, philosophies or products. Life is people. Great people make great organizations. Many times success or failure is not a what issue, it’s a who issue. Discovering the right people and making sure they are in the right positions is very important.
Leadership is not about personalities it is about humility.
- Collins’ research reveals that the great, successful leaders have a keen awareness of their own humanity and that of those with whom they work. They approach things with humility.
Hubris leads to downfall.
- Hubris = Excessive pride or self-confidence
- Correlating to the aforementioned need for humility, the landscape is littered with leaders who were too prideful, too full of themselves to make the decisions necessary for success.
Fanatic discipline. 20 mile marchers succeed.
- Okay, you will have to trust me on this one. One of the examples in Collins’ book is the story of two adventurers and their race to the South Pole. I don’t want to ruin the story, but one made it, winning the race. The other not only lost the race, but he and all his party died in the process. The winning team was very disciplined in planning and in process. He chose to advance 20 miles per day, good conditions or bad. Stay focused.
Empirical creativity. Practical approaches. What actually works. Be willing to live with the Eskimos.
- Related to the adventure story. The winning adventurer didn’t place his faith in technology or cutting edge equipment. Instead, he chose to spend time with the Eskimos, learning the timeless practices necessary to survive the harsh climate.
Fire bullets then fire cannon balls.
- That’s what you do in an uncertain environment. Test. Imagine you fire all your cannon balls and miss a moving target. Instead, fire the bullets – listen for the “ping” – look where you hit. Then, break out the cannon balls.
Productive paranoia. Channel your anxiety into productivity. The only mistakes that you learn from are the ones you survive.
- Be prepared for what you can’t predict. Always ask, what if? But don’t just get scared by it – channel the anxiety into action.
The signature of mediocrity is chronic inconsistency.
- Hard to disagree with that, huh?
Change practices, not values.
- True dat, homie! I am living this right now. This is the opposite of the too oft used, “But we have always done it that way!”
Jim Collins’ Ten Point To Do List
1- Run the good to great diagnostic on your organization. A free tool.
2- Answer the question of how many seats are on your bus and how can they be filled with the right people.
3- Who will you allow to mentor you? Personal board of directors.
4- Get your hedgehogs right before it’s too late. Passion, DNA for it, making a contribution to others.
- What are you passionate about? What can you be the best at? What can actually make you a living? And the answer must meet all three criteria.
- Collins calls this the “Hedgehog” concept, doing one thing and doing it well. In his book Good to Great, he uses the parable of the clever, devious fox and the simple hedgehog. The fox keeps coming up with new ideas to eat the hedgehog, but the hedgehog handily defeats him by doing his one trick: rolling into a thorny ball.
5- Set your 20 mile march.
6- Try 6 new things before year’s end. Fire bullets. Then cannon balls.
7- Turn off gadgets for at least 2 days every two weeks.
- Unplug. Get away from Facebook, Twitter, etc. Focus your mind.
8- True disciplined action is not in what we do, but what we are willing not to do.
9- Double your reach to people half your age, by changing your practices not values.
10- Set your BHAGS (big hairy audacious goals) that make you useful.
Forget survival and success, be useful.
Allow discipline to amplify creativity without quenching it.
Be rigorous without being ruthless. Get people to the right seats.
What do you think? Share your comments.