creative destruction

Don’t Count on Your Gut!

Most of the time, experienced and seasoned leaders are served well by their gut. That “gut feeling” doesn’t come out of nowhere. It comes from experience—their own and those of others who shared theirs. From those experiences, we develop biases (core beliefs) about what does and does not work. It is those core beliefs that drive our gut reaction to events and circumstances enabling us to make most decisions quickly without research, consultation, or analysis.

However, the excellent leader also knows there is a time when their gut is not up to the job. They don’t “bet the farm” casually. Material or bet-the-farm issues are often those that bring into question the very validity of your core beliefs given new conditions and circumstances. Yielding to your gut when you should be adjusting to new conditions on the ground leads to adverse results. When I look back over my 55 years of business experience, I can point to numerous competitors that no longer exist because their leaders followed their gut when the game board was in transition.

To be an effective leader, it is important to recognize when to follow your gut and when to take an analytical approach seeking advice from those with special know-how and experience. When the stakes are big, don’t count on your gut!

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Tom Collins’ books include his book on leadership, The Language of Excellence, and his mystery novels including Mark Rollins’ New Career, Mark Rollins and the Rainmaker, Mark Rollins and the Puppeteer and the newest mystery, The Claret Murders. For signed copies, go to the author’s online store. unsigned print and ebook editions are available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other online bookstores. For an audio edition of The Claret Murders go to The ebook edition for the iPad is available through Apple iTunes’ iBookstore.

Whiteboards and Flip Charts

Creative destruction fueled by technology advancements leaves a lot of dead practices and products in its wake—handwritten letters, typewriters, fax machines, etc.—but the flip chart and the whiteboard not only endure, The Wall Street Journal called them “High Tech’s Secret Weapon.”

Farhad Manjoo writing in The Wall Street Journal explained, “Whiteboards are to Silicon Valley what legal pads are to lawyers, what Excel is to accountants, or what long sleeves are to magicians. They’re an all-purpose tool of innovation, often the first place a product or company’s vision is dreamed up and designed, and a constant huddling point for future refinement.”

The whiteboard and flip chart are so important to the art of leadership that my new book, The Language of Excellence targeted for release on July 17, is dedicated to them. The dedication reads in part:

This book is a testament to the power of
the flip chart and the whiteboard. Visit
any innovative organization and you will
find them throughout. 

The Language of Excellence is a new genre for me. It is not a “whodunit mystery.” Nevertheless, I trust that it will unlock the mystery of leadership for young professionals, entrepreneurs starting a new business, or seasoned executives frustrated by the difficulty of steering an unresponsive corporate ship.

Doug Ulman, President/CEO the LIVESTRONG Foundation, after reading a
draft of the book wrote, “His book teaches you how to equip your team to deal with almost anything business or life will throw at them.”

Edward Rosenberg, Designer/CEO Spectore Corporation, said, “Collins defines the essential ingredients in a business with masterful simplicity and clarity. I wish I had read this 30 or 40 years ago.”

The hardcover edition of The Language of Excellence is priced at $39.00, but right now, you can place a pre-release order for only $19.00 by going to

Slot Machine Management

One of the wrong ways to make change is characterized by Slot Machine Management—the slot machine manager makes frequent changes similar to a compulsive gambler repeatedly pulling the arm of a slot machine hoping that that next pull will be a winner.

Change is essential for the long-term success of a business. Without change, success doesn’t happen.  Yet the paradox is that the failure of management to understand change and competently manage it is high on the list of reasons businesses fail—not merely small businesses or new businesses.  Well established businesses often fall victim to the lack of a corporate memory.  Each generation of management tends to relearn the mistakes of prior generations.  While their sheer size insulates giant corporations from disappearing altogether, they can wind up on the dustbin of wannabes—companies that are no longer in the leadership positions they once held.  The culprit is often a slot machine approach.  IBM is one example.  There was a period of time when the company reorganized frequently—shifting managers to new rolls and specialties before they had become competent in their current assignments.  They realigned their sales force every six to twelve months—changing industry assignments, making regional and division assignments, etc.  Each reorganization (each pull of the one-armed bandit) rendered the company less successful and less competitive, symptoms of Slot Machine Management.

As performance goes south, the slot machine manager reacts by implementing more change to stem the fall in performance.  In effect the gambler reaches up and pulls the slot machine handle with the hope that maybe this time he will hit the jackpot rather than lemons.  That precipitates another fall in results and more changes by management, spiraling the company down to lower and lower results.


In 2010 Music City suffered a great flood.  Nashville streets were turned into streams and the streams into raging killing zones.  That is the setting for my newest novel, The Claret Murders, available on for $15.99 or at only $2.99 for the Kindle, Nook and through iTunes for the iPad.

Change by Decree

One of the wrong ways to implement change is by decree—“Do it because I said to!” or “Do it because I’m the boss.”  The problem with Change by Decree is that it is unmanaged.  It could be successful or it could fail.  The arrows in the icon illustrate that the reaction to the change can be all over the board.  It is uncontrolled.  People don’t react well to forced change so one thing is sure, whatever success is achieved, if any, it will be at a greater cost than for properly managed change.  Remember the icon for the condition required before the downward spike of the Change Curve is halted and turned upward—KASH.  Change by Decree does nothing to create a positive attitude, sabotaging the likely outcome from the onset.  Unmanaged change endangers any organization.

If change is so risky and dangerous, one might conclude that it is something to avoid.  The answer, of course, is that you can’t.  Change is the very essence of business.  Yes, change left unattended can destroy the business.  Likewise, change occurring around you that is left un-responded to reduces your competiveness and can even eliminate the market for your goods or services.  Too often entrenched market leaders ignore the changes occurring from disruptive technology or innovation.  They focus on the quality, “wrong Q”.  The Underwood company thought of itself as a typewriter company not as company to help people produce documents.  If they had viewed themselves as the latter, they might still be around.

Survival requires businesses to respond to a constantly changing environment.  Consider the chances of surviving in the music industry as vinyl was displaced by CDs only to lose out to the downloading of digital songs.  Consider what it was like to survive in the technology business as main frames and service bureaus were replaced by mini-computers which were quickly replaced by desktop computers now under assault from the “cloud” and a host of handheld devices and pads.  How does one survive in the telecommunications communications field now that the Internet is here?  How would you like to have been the leading manufacturer of FAX machines?  Consider the publishing industry now transitioning from the print age to the digital age.  Long-term survival requires companies to embrace change, not avoid it!

Change by Decree, forcing change on people, is unmanaged.  It may work or it may not.  The response to forced change, “Do it because I said to,” is random and unpredictable.

In 2010 Music City suffered a great flood.  Nashville streets were turned into streams and the streams into raging killing zones.  That is the setting for my newest novel, The Claret Murders, available on for $15.99 or at only $2.99 for the Kindle, Nook and through iTunes for the iPad.