Charles Handy once said, “We are all prisoners of our past. It is hard to think of things except in the way we have always thought of them. But that solves no problems and seldom changes anything.” And why should we leave a successful path if it yields profits, appreciation, power and security?

The answer is simple: because the environment is changing without us noticing – suddenly we are overtaken by others with new business models and we can’t keep up. Without owning a single hotel Airbnb has managed to record more bookings than the world’s largest hotel chains. You won’t see many traditional taxis in San Fransisco (or many other cities), Uber has taken over this business. We could list an infinite number of examples.

To what extent are you prepared to fundamentally question your business model? Even at a time when you are particularly successful?

Success makes you blind, they say. Austrian economic theorist Joseph A. Schumpeter thinks that what is needed is some sort of ‘creative destruction’. Both are true and should be taken to heart by every change manager – even if you only receive resistance, lack of understanding and ignorance from the ‘group in charge’ among the successful. Certain leadership skills are required to question existing success: personal freedom, independence from appreciation and immunity to the desire to be successful in every single area all the time.


  1. Read the book “Blue Ocean Strategy” by Kim and Mauborgne and use the ‘Business Canvas’ tool described therein to assess your company.
  2. During one of your next management meetings, ask the participants the following questions: “What has made us successful in the past?” and “What of that has to be actively destroyed to make sure we will continue to be successful for the next five years?”
  3. Start cleaning up your own area and ask yourself: “What blocks my efficiency? What can I do without from tomorrow onwards? A meaningless task, a habit or maybe the apparent security that used to be important but won’t be worth much in the future?”