RIDGE WRITERS ON BOOKS: ’Great by Choice’What is the difference between the marvelously successful and those that flounder in “plain vanilla” success? In “Great by Choice,” leading business researchers Jim Collins and Morten Hansen scientifically analyze a number of “10Xers,” businesses and individuals who performed 10 times better than their competitors.

In the spirit of Napoleon Hill’s “Think and Grow Rich” and Stephen R. Covey’s “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” “Great by Choice” is full of insight into the process of creating success.

Specifically, Collins and Hansen present a formula for success that has brought companies such as Southwest Airlines and the biotech giant Biomet through chaos and uncertainty, and that took IMAX cinematographer David Breshears to the summit of Mount Everest in the midst of a deadly mountain storm.

What they come up with is a set of specific strategies applicable to enterprises small and large.

The major strategies presented in “Great by Choice” include the “20-Mile-March,” “Bullets, then Cannonballs,” and the “SMaC recipe.”

A “20-Mile-March” is a method for achieving large goals. The two key take-aways are to break the goal into a series of challenging but realistically achievable smaller goals — the eponymous example being Amundsen’s 20-mile-long daily march across the Antarctic plain — and achieving these on a consistent, daily basis.

The next idea, “Bullets, then Cannonballs,” exemplifies Collins and Hansen’s idea of “empirical creativity.”

Likening the process of research, development, and application to pirates at sea aiming for each other’s ships, “Great by Choice” outlines how Steve Jobs managed to bring Apple back from the rut it had fallen into after his departure. They show how he did this by thoroughly testing ideas in real life, but on initially small scales.

Finally, the “SMaC” in “SMaC recipe” stands for “Specific, Methodical, and Consistent.” A further development of the 20-Mile-March strategy, SMaC recipes embody the principles of discipline discovered by Collins and Hansen.

Businesses that developed and followed exactly defined goals and stringent procedures for reaching them and only changed these procedures gradually, if at all, were much more likely than their competitors to survive tumultuous economic conditions and establish themselves as great companies.

Every chapter in this important book is worth the price of admission and has the potential to change the way you see success in yourself and in others.

This weekly column is written by members of the Ridge Writers, the East Sierra Branch of the California Writers Club.

Meetings are held the first Wednesday evening of each month at Ridgecrest Presbyterian Church, and free programs are offered throughout the year.

Ridge Writers’ book “Planet Mojave: Visions from a World Apart” is available at Carriage Inn, Jawbone Station, the Historic USO Building, the Maturango Museum, Red Rock Books and from www.planet mojave.com.

Story First Published: 2013-10-09