The news in business has been full of falling stars lately. “Is it just me,” a friend asked the other day, “or does it seem as if half of the CEO supernovas from two years ago have crashed and burned?” In light of the economic turmoil I could understand how he had gotten this impression, but could not really agree that we have seen a marked increase in flameouts. What I believe we are seeing, instead, is the usually hidden processes of management selection highlighted by the sudden glare of publicity, which has been fired by the dot-com collapse, the accounting scandals, and Wall Street’s reversals.
What the bull-market years partially obscured for those who are not inside the upper echelons of business is that some things never change, and one of those things is that there is no simple explanation for anything. An earthquake in a single market, such as that which hit the telecommunications field last year, may seem huge, capable of changing the way we live (or at least the way we invest). But it’s just a part of the underlying shifts that are constantly taking place, the process of what the first theorist of dynamic capitalism, Joseph Schumpeter, called creative destruction.