Their book starts with a definition of what the authors call '10X' companies, those that outperform their industry averages by at least 10 times. These companies display three fundamental and distinctive behaviours: 'fanatic discipline' and 'monomaniacal' focus on achieving their goals; 'empirical creativity', an obsession with facts rather than opinion and a readiness to ignore conventional wisdom once armed with these facts; and 'productive paranoia', constant worry which fuels relentless preparation and precautions against even the most improbable bad events.
They draw on examples from business and beyond to illustrate 10Xers at work, such as Amundsen and Scott's race to the South Pole. While Scott took a relaxed, cavalier approach to his expedition, Amundsen prepared for every eventuality, even eating raw dolphin meat to see if it could provide a decent energy supply. He loaded up with far more supplies than Scott to serve a much smaller team. And, tellingly, for Collins and Hansen, Scott took just one thermometer, which disastrously broke, whereas Amundsen brought four.
Amundsen reached the pole more than a month before Scott and made it back alive. 'Amundsen and Scott achieved dramatically different outcomes,' Collins and Hansen write, 'because they displayed very different behaviours.'