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6 Lessons From Jim Collins On Becoming Great

IMB_jim_collins_book One of the most dynamic speakers you will ever hear at a live event is legendary business thinker and author Jim Collins. Through is best selling books and many talks at some of the world's largest business events, he often shares wisdom that is driven by his vast experience, but also easily understood and implementable by people in businesses of all sizes. Below are six of his most powerful lessons that stood out for me:

  1. Run a pocket of greatness. Too many business owners try to expand and do too many things well. If you know that you are the best at something, then focus on that and make it into what Collins called a "pocket of greatness." When you have this, you have something that you can build from. Without it you can lose focus.
  2. Double your questions to statements ratio. This is a slightly mathematical way of making the point that you need to ask more questions about your business and where you want to go instead of creating vast vision statements or bold declarations for your business without the right amount of thinking. When you ask more questions, you force yourself into the mindset of thinking about how you will ACTUALLY do something and what the barriers might be. It's an essential step towards achieving anything.
  3. Spend less time trying to be interesting and more trying to be interested. Conventional marketing wisdom and most books focus on trying to help you find more ways to be interesting. I too write about this topic here and on my own marketing blog. The problem with focusing too much on this, however, is that you may be missing out on learning opportunities or leads or even just highly useful conversations if you aren't listening for them. So try to spend more time being interested in the people that you meet and ask them questions instead of focusing on yourself. You may be surprised with what you will find.
  4. Turn off your gadgets and create white space. As Collins talked about turning off your gadgets, you could see the people in the audience shifting uncomfortably and the ones who had been checking their Blackberries or iPhones look up. Putting away your gadgets and being disconnected is hard – but if you can do it then you create essential time on your calendar every week just to think about your business and what else you could be doing. This is the time where the great thoughts stuck in your mind can find their way out – and it may become the most important time of your week.
  5. Create a STOP doing list. Most of us have a to do list, but how many of us have a list of things that we should STOP doing? This is exactly what Collins suggested – to help you prioritize by clearly thinking about the things that may be wasting your time right now which you will stop doing.
  6. Read beyond your field. One of Collins' most surprising habits was that he says he reads 100 books unrelated to business every year. This helps him to expand his vision beyond the world of business and think about other areas. It gives him an essential sense of the world and what is happening, as well as ideas that he can apply to his business and for the organizations with which he works. The same principle can work for you and your business. 

This post is republished from the original article on the American Express Open Forum website. It is part of "Small Business Friday" on this blog – a featured series on ideas and marketing techniques for small businesses.

To read more articles like this, visit the "Small Business Friday" category on this blog.

6 thoughts on “6 Lessons From Jim Collins On Becoming Great”

  1. I wish more people would take #6 to heart.

    I meet so many people who talk about nothing other than marketing and making money. They seem to have no interests or knowledge about anything else in the world.

  2. I’d like to expand #4: “Turn your car off, aka walk (without your gadgets ;)” – the ancient greek philosophers walked while forming their thoughts.

    It helps me a great deal when I hit the wall of creativelessnes (if that word exists).

  3. #5 can be a great tool for any group, family or company. Many actions become habit or routine and remain in place long after they have stopped serving their original purpose. Taking a moment to streamline them may significantly increase both your productivity and creativity.


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Rohit is the author of 8 books on trends, the future of business, building a more human brand with storytelling and how to create a more diverse and inclusive world.

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