The #1 Biggest and Best Idea from Jim Collins’ New Book

Beyond Entrepreneurship 2.0

I admit it – I’m a nerd! Seven year ago, on December 23rd, 2013, I had just finished Jim Collins’ book, “Great By Choice” and loved it. This wasn’t the first book of his I’d loved. In fact, I’d read every book he’d written.

But in that moment as I lay in bed reading over my notes, highlights, and underlines, I got the wild hair. What if I put together the complete synthesis of his work?

I spent my holiday break obsessively synthesizing the core concepts, highlights, notes, and interconnections between the major ahas from all of his work.

I was obsessed – working until 2am each day on my “passion project!” (Thank you to my wife, Hali, for still loving me amidst the feverish holiday pursuit!)

So, when I was talking to a new client the other day and she said, “Have you read the new Jim Collins’ book yet?” I felt embarrassment and excitement. I didn’t even know he had a new one! (I mostly read and create leadership and executive coaching research now – yup, nerdy!)

“It’s called Beyond Entrepreneurship, 2.0. He wrote about me and our company to illustrate one of his points” she said.

Needless to say, I downloaded it that night and spent the weekend in hyper-consumption mode.

Highlights, Insights, and Critiques

I wanted to share some of the highlights, insights, and critiques I had, in case they’re helpful to you! Instead of covering everything with minimal depth to create an “uninspirational camel” (term used in the book) that would lack clarity and spark, I’ve decided to share the most potent leadership insight based on my 20+ years as an executive coach, leadership program creator, and researcher.

The biggest insight I found intriguing was that after 30 years from the Beyond Entrepreneurship’s original publication is that Jim Collins’ “single most important metric” to create enduring organizational greatness has changed.

Originally, the single most important metric for leaders was “catalyze a shared vision.” Yes, this is important, but you could have the best shared vision that everyone believes in, but not become great. Why? The “who” problem.

From his view in 2020, Jim writes that there is “one metric that towers above all others…to build a truly great and lasting company.” That metric is “the percentage of key seats on the bus filled with the right people for those seats.”

The Key to Great Organizations

This points to the magic key of great organizations – it’s about the talent! If you have a few “right people” and the majority aren’t, you’ll always be facing a headwind. In fact, the right people will get exhausted from trying to pull everyone else along. 

The best thing you can do for the right people is surround them with more of the right people. It amplifies their efforts, and creates a “flywheel effect” of attracting more of the right people.

Keep this in mind – the right people come in all colors, shapes, backgrounds, and expressions! Equity is key to innovation, high performance, and true greatness. 

With that inclusion, imagine if you had 20 key roles and 19 of them were filled with the absolute right person doing that role. How productive, creative, and great could you become? Practically unstoppable, right?

What if you had only 1 right person out of 20 key roles? How productive, creative, and great could you become? Yup, that’s the point.

So what should you do when you find you don’t have the right percentage of the right people in the right roles?

You Have Two Options: Develop or Replace

Jim points out that successful companies have been built with either, historically. Yes, his work focuses on looking backwards at successful companies – from the past.

However, as a recent Harvard Business Review article notes, “Poach-and-release is no longer a sustainable model for talent acquisition.” Rather, you need to develop the talent that you have in place – now.

Sure, some people aren’t in the right role or can’t readily grow to the next level. To identify them, they’ll often have the best intentions, or even have the potential to excel, but they don’t have the drive or willingness to level up. This is a clear case of replace with respect. The goal is to have them (and hopefully to help them) find a better fit elsewhere.

However, for the majority of others, they have the potential, but they just haven’t had the support to mature into that potential. This is a clear case of develop. The goal is to give them the tools and development for the needed growth.

The World Economic Forum – Future of Jobs Report 2020 says that helping people develop the next level of skills and thinking will only become more essential as we look ahead to 2025. This points to the central role of development.

So, how can you develop them?

Think in terms of a versioning. You 1.0 is different than you 2.0, 3.0, etc. If you’re doing it right, you’re always looking to discover what the next version of you needs to be in order to fulfill your potential.

Several years ago, before Beyond Entrepreneurship 2.0 came out and discussed this 1.0, 2.0 idea, I worked with an executive on this exact topic. We mapped out the qualities and characteristics of his 1.0 leadership as well as who he would become in his best 2.0 self.

We looked at the attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors of and between each version. Literally, we wrote it out on a piece of paper. Then, we created a roadmap of action to make the necessary changes.Through our coaching work together, he rapidly shifted to his 2.0 self. 

Shortly after, the CEO commented on how much he’d changed and that he wanted to give him a larger opportunity. Soon, he had a promotion, a new scope of responsibilities, and a renewed confidence in his ability to re-version himself! Not only did he successfully stabilize into his 2.0 self…he then set his sights on his 3.0 self. Guess what – yup, he got there…and got another promotion and all that comes with it.

Final Thoughts

This brings me to a final thought for this brief review – “The best thing you can do for your career is stop focusing on your career!” What?! Yes!

The best way to be successful is to focus on developing yourself and creating “sparkling pockets of greatness” wherever you are. Promotions are the result of readiness and results, and “versioning,” as I’ve deemed it, is the best way to get there.

So what’s the main takeaway from all this? Great companies are obsessed with finding and developing great people! So, what do you need to focus on?

As an individual, become obsessed with finding your next version and getting the development you need to get there!

As a leader, become obsessed with finding the next version of your team as individuals, as a team, and as a culture. By extension, become obsessed with developing them through your interactions as well as become obsessed with getting them the support they need to reach their greatest heights.

When you do this, especially organization-wide, you can create some truly incredible transformations, such as going from $35M to $3.5B in just 7 years.

So, the #1 Biggest and Best Idea? In today’s world, leadership and talent development is the only sustainable path to individual, team, and organizational greatness.

While there are some big traps to avoid in leadership development, the biggest trap is not doing it!

David Morelli, PhD

David Morelli, PhD

David is the CEO and co-founder of OwlHub and the creator of the RESPECT Coaching Styles™. He has 25 years of executive coaching and leadership development experience. When he's not inspiring people to grow, you can find him making a fool of himself onstage as an improviser.