I finished reading Great by Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos, and Luck–Why Some Thrive Despite Them All by Jim Collins and Morten Hanson. I’d read the pair’s previous books in this series drawing from a similar body of research, which include: Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…And Others Don’t and Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies. I often look to books, articles, etc about business to help frame my thinking about our work in higher education and libraries. Although libraries don’t have neatly measurable profit margins, we certainly do need to be able to document and articulate our impact and relevance to external stakeholders. These sources can help us develop strategies to do that.
Great by Choice uses the term 10X as a synonym for great companies and great leaders. Their analysis starts with five myths about great companies and great leaders:
- Successful leadership in a turbulent world are bold, risk-seeking visionaries.
- Innovation distinguishes 10X companies in a fast-moving, uncertain, and chaotic world.
- A threat-filled world favors the speedy; you’re either the quick or the dead.
- Radical change on the outside requires radical change on the inside.
- Great enterprises with 10X success have a lot more good luck.
The authors go through each myth. For example, when responding to third myth, the authors argue “10X leaders figure out when to go fast, and when not to.” When responding to the fifth myth, the authors explain “the critical question is not whether you’ll have luck, but what you do with the luck you get.” (9).
As the book continues, the authors map out three behaviors that their research suggests 10X leaders have: fanatic discipline (keeps leader on track), empirical creativity (keeps the leader vibrant) and productive paranoia (keeps the company alive). And in the middle of this triad of behaviors is “Level 5 Ambition,” which provides others with inspired motivation.
Key Take Aways
- Determine what your 20 mile march will lead you to. This concept argues in favor of commitment to a goal and then working with discipline to achieve it.
Develop pilot projects and iterative steps to test a concept saves time and money. Not all pilots are worth full-scale rollout, and when done right those pilots let you know which ideas are worth it.
The importance of zooming in to focus on the root of a problem, and then zooming out to determine how to solve it.
Craft SMaC (Specific Methodical, and Consistent) recipe to establish what elements drive success for the organization.
As I read the book I considered what our 20 mile march in special collections is. For us, I want to increase the number of research assignments that come out of instruction sessions from the current 20% to 50%. This will likely take several years and a commitment to innovative instruction practices and relationship building with our teaching faculty. We also want to complete converting our finding aids to EAD in 2020. This march began several years ago, and I’m confident that we’ll meet this goal. I’m a big believer in pilot projects, and enjoyed this refresher in understanding their value. The concept of zooming in and out reminded me of Peter Senge’s thoughts about systems thinking. In libraries we all too often only look at the surface of a problem and don’t take the time to drill down and focus on the root causes. It’s then even rarer to take the time to zoom out and determine what, if any changes need to be made.
What does your 20 mile march look like?