Last week, Forbes printed a short interview with Dick Foster, Senior Partner and Director at McKinsey & Company. Foster is most famous for his book, Creative Destruction. From the interview, it would appear that Foster is more than a little skeptical of business gurus who advise doing the same things you see high-performing companies doing: “There was no such company, and there never had been such a company!”
The Dick Foster interview is today’s Friday Inspiration. Here’s a short excerpt:
“Let me tell you how I got to the term “creative destruction.” In the 80’s, I was in a search for “the excellent company” – the all-seeing, all-knowing, all-wise company that made all the right moves in advance, and that made more money for its shareholders than any of its competitors. This was the permanent outperformer stock – the really good deal. I looked at 4,000 companies over 40 years, and what I found stunned me. There was no such company, and there never had been such a company!
“I thought something had to be wrong. Was I looking at the problem in the right way? No company had been able to outperform the market for any substantial length of time. (GE came as close as any, but didn’t do any better than the overall index). Somehow the market – managed by nobody – was performing better than all the brains on the planet. But why? Then I realized that the reason markets outperform companies was closely tied to what Joseph Schumpeter called “creative destruction.” This was actually a phrase that came from the Hindu religion, dealing with the transformation of an individual throughout their life, from creation, onto death, and ultimately rebirth.
“That whole notion of creation, life, and destruction seemed a like a good model for what was going on in markets. When the time comes for a company to face its maker and file for bankruptcy, it does it – the markets don’t care. And when there is opportunity out there to create something new, hundreds will go after it. Most will fail, but one or two will succeed (and we’ll assign Apollo-like status to the latter, while quickly forgetting about the 500 others who failed). Markets are better at creation than any individual company, and they are much better at destruction. A company cannot perform better than the markets that are adapting more rapidly – it’s just a fact of life.”
Check out the rest of the interview at Forbes.com.