Thoughts on “Good to Great”

I’ve been reading Jim Collins’ Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t and thinking how it applies to the individual.

A key part of Good to Great are the interviews conducted in studying what separated the great companies from the good.  In one chapter, Collins and his team queried the CEO interviewees to describe/discuss “the one big thing,” the break through moment that elevated the company from merely good to a top flight, great enterprise.

Relating back to individuals, when did Bill Gates become BILL GATES, Barack Obama become BARACK OBAMA, WARREN BUFFET, BILL AND TED and so on.

Collins was told from the CEOs of companies defined as great, that there was no “Aha!” moment, no light bulb flashing above the collective mind of management.  Rather, as Collins states, “it was a whole bunch of interlocking pieces that built one upon another.”

This makes sense and is backed up in a recent Boston Globe article by Jonah Lehrer concerning the study of “grit”, the ability to drive forward in the face of difficulty.  Lehrer wrote:

“Even if Newton started thinking about gravity in 1666, it took him years of painstaking work before he understood it. He filled entire vellum notebooks with his scribbles and spent weeks recording the exact movements of a pendulum. (It made, on average, 1,512 ticks per hour.) The discovery of gravity, in other words, wasn’t a flash of insight – it required decades of effort, which is one of the reasons Newton didn’t publish his theory until 1687, in the “Principia.”

Essentially, grinding out for years does not make an appealing story.  Generally it is only the final result that gets press, making it seem as if one day greatness was simply bestowed upon an individual.  However, in most cases those who become great will not tell you WHEN they became great, most likely they will describe the HOW.

I bring this up because it is hard sometimes to focus on the HOW over the WHEN because of our culture of immediacy.  Whether greatness be defined as being named CEO, partner in the firm, rich, etc.  People forget or don’t acknowledge the set-backs individuals faced, trial and error to finally align their skills with a particular field, or developing competencies over an extended period of time (see the 10,000 hour rule).

Over the past few years I developed the mind set that my success where equally as important as my failures.  Both provided guidance as I moved forward with my life.  However I try not to dwell too much on either simply because I have no idea if in the long-term it was the failure that developed me (hopefully) into a great individual, or the success.

Having this mind-set also lessens the blows of set-backs (to my ego and drive), and keeps me centered as I move forward.



2 Comments on “Thoughts on “Good to Great””

  1. linda says:

    funny! i just skimmed through this book a few times last week. my best guy friend had it in his car. what a coincidence

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