How can one explain why seemingly successful companies, such as Borders, Blockbuster, Circuit City, Wang Labs and Digital Equipment, go bankrupt or fall from a successful leadership position? I find it fascinating that almost half of the roughly 25 companies that passed the rigorous tests to be listed in the once-famous book by Tom Peters and Robert Waterman, In Search of Excellence, today either no longer exist, are in bankruptcy, or have performed poorly.

What happened in the 30+ years since that book was published? Ponder this question: How many of the original Standard and Poor’s (S&P) 500 list originally created in 1957 are on that list today? Answer: 74 – or just 15 percent. And of those 74 companies, only 12 have outperformed the S&P index average. Pretty grim.

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