Global Leadership Summit: Jim Collins


Listening to Jim Collins is like tapping into a water main – forget fire hydrant. I have tried to capture the essence of his talk but it was so full of stuff – this summary really feels inadequate. I will be chewing on this talk for a long, long time.

Core behaviors that make the difference between good to great.

Fanatical Discipline.
Empirical Creativity.
Productive Paranoia

The Example of The Race to The South Pole Expedition
Roald Amundsen, Norwegian vs. Robert Scott, English

Amundsen – 20 miles a day, no matter what.
Do not exceed your reach, have fanatical discipline. Consecutive consistency.

Scott – play the weather, environment. If weather is good – push hard. If not, stay put.

Problem – by expanding to the edge of the margin, unprepared if (when) things go wrong. Do not have the reserve in strength to fight off a white-out. Which is exactly what happened to Scott. He and all of this expedition dies because of their lack of discipline.

Great companies are in it for the long haul. They will be around when the public needs them the most. So buffer supplies, buffer resources to be ready.

Empirical Creativity

Amundsen – lived with Eskimoes to research. Use dogs with sleds. Teachable, run in packs, stay warm, can pull a lot of weight. Creative – but empirically tested. Plan B was to harness teams of men for each sled.

Scott – new technology, motorized treads. Plan B – ponies. Neither had been empirically tested in the harsh conditions of the South Pole. Engines froze, so did the ponies. Another failure of Scott which led to their deaths.

We are naturally creative. We are not naturally discipline. We need to match our creativity with discipline so that we stay innovative AND consistent.

Productive Paranoia

Consistently tinkering, consistently thinking and tweaking to make it just a little bit better. Planning for all kinds of possibilities to put organization in position to be able to respond positively to surprises.

Amundsen – stored reserve supply depots along route, marked with orange flags. Scott did as well.

Amundsen made black marks in every direction every 10 meters for 100 meters. Why? Just in case of a whiteout. He increased his margin of error by 100 over Scott. It made the difference in life and death.

Your organization will only be great if it can be great without you.

The 3 tests of great organizations:

Superior performance – we do what we do better than anyone else with SMaC. Simple, mechanical, and consistent standards.

Distinctive impact – what would our community miss if we didn’t exist? What do we uniquely bring to our community?

Lasting Endurance – we are here for a lifetime.

This will be the first talk we digest as a team at Western Hills. The 3 tests, the SMaC principle. Just keeping things simple so that we can reproduce them over and over again.

This talk has me thinking the most.


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