Good to Great


Jim Collins

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Stockdale Paradox Term Analysis

This term is named after Jim Stockdale, a United States admiral who led his troops during their imprisonment in a notorious prisoner-of-war camp during the Vietnam War. When Collins meets Stockdale, Stockdale tells him that the secret of his leadership success was balancing belief in a happy ending for his story with an unflinching acceptance of his current, very challenging reality. Collins and his team realize that a version of this paradoxical mindset existed within each of the good-to-great companies, which managed to combine hope for future success with a commitment to facing brutal facts head on.

Stockdale Paradox Quotes in Good to Great

The Good to Great quotes below are all either spoken by Stockdale Paradox or refer to Stockdale Paradox. For each quote, you can also see the other terms and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
The Possibility of Transformation Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Harper Collins edition of Good to Great published in 2011.
Chapter 4  Quotes

I asked, “Who didn’t make it out?”

“Oh, that’s easy,” he said. “The optimists.”

“The optimists? I don’t understand,” I said, now completely confused, given what he’d said a hundred meters earlier.

“The optimists. Oh, they were the ones who said, ‘We’re going to be out by Christmas.’ And Christmas would come, and Christmas would go. Then they’d say, ‘We’re going to be out by Easter.’ And Easter would come, and Easter would go. And then Thanksgiving, and then it would be Christmas again. And they died of a broken heart.”

Related Characters: Jim Collins (speaker), Jim Stockdale (speaker)
Page Number: 85
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 5  Quotes

Does every organization have a Hedgehog Concept to discover? What if you wake up, look around with brutal honesty, and conclude: “We’re not the best at anything, and we never have been.” Therein lies one of the most exciting aspects of the entire study. In the majority of cases, the good-to-great companies were not the best in the world at anything and showed no prospects of becoming so. Infused with the Stockdale Paradox … every good-to-great company, no matter how awful at the start of the process, prevailed in its search for a Hedgehog Concept.

Related Characters: Jim Collins (speaker)
Related Symbols: Hedgehog Concept
Page Number: 116
Explanation and Analysis:
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Stockdale Paradox Term Timeline in Good to Great

The timeline below shows where the term Stockdale Paradox appears in Good to Great. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 4 
Duality and Contradiction Theme Icon
...the management teams of good-to-great companies showed, Collins describes a framework that he calls the Stockdale Paradox . The Paradox refers to Jim Stockdale, a US military officer in a prisoner-of-war camp... (full context)