Articles Tagged Life & Society

Sep 18, 2016
Actually, I’ll wear brown shoes whenever I feel like it

“There are no circumstances in which you should be seen here in brown shoes.” Those were the words uttered by one of the old warhorse bosses in my first-ever job. He was talking to a group of us who had started out straight from university, in a global consulting firm located in the City of […]

Read More
Aug 28, 2016
What our Marathon Man taught us

At the start, it looked like a fearsomely crowded field. There seemed to be a dozen or so highly talented fellows who could win this thing. I knew we had an outstanding man in the race, but I was afraid. There were many others there who looked equally well prepared and in prime physical condition. […]

Read More
Aug 14, 2016
Your show-off purchase is not your achievement

For many people, the pinnacle of their existence occurs when they rock up at the village of their birth in a gleaming new 4WD. Or when they hold the housewarming party (which, let’s admit it, is just a house showing-off party) at their new abode. Or when they place that new iPhone on the table […]

Read More
Jul 31, 2016
Get ready to reinvent yourself for a new economy

Technology threatens to upend our assumptions about work, employment and income. Is this a real threat to society, or just hyperbole? First, the optimistic scenario. When I was a young man in an economics class many moons ago, I was introduced to the “lump of labour fallacy.” This is the idea that there is only […]

Read More
Jul 24, 2016
Will you have a job in the (near) future?

You know that the employment landscape is undergoing fundamental upheavals, right? You appreciate that the advent of robotics and artificial intelligence is going to give automation a big push, I hope? You realise that some studies suggest nearly half of all today’s jobs could be lost to automation – yes? And that it won’t take […]

Read More
Jul 17, 2016
A city that’s lost its neighbourliness

It starts as a pulsating thud in the evening and gets progressively louder as the night goes on, often going into the early hours of the morning. Many, many Nairobians lie on their beds wide awake because of this noise, wondering what happened to good neighbourliness. The noise I refer to is the music being […]

Read More
Jul 03, 2016
What did the United Kingdom just do?

The market reactions said it all: the pound plunged to levels last seen in the 1980s. British shares endured a bloodbath, some losing a third of their value. That tells you that no one had factored in a ‘Brexit’ – Britain voting to exit the European Union. I know I hadn’t – I never thought […]

Read More
Jun 26, 2016
Humanity unites us; insanity divides us

This is a story about two mothers. The two women live side by side. They are neighbours. Each has a child, of similar age. The children go to the same school. The two mothers are often at each other’s houses, since they have much in common. They discuss the school, its teachers, their children’s nutrition, […]

Read More
Jun 19, 2016
Why the grass is always greener on the other side

We are constantly peering over fences and into windows. The lives of others fascinate us. We have a lifelong obsession with knowing what they are doing; how they do it; what we need to copy from them. What are they wearing? Where do they get that stuff? How do they look so effortlessly stylish? I […]

Read More
Jun 12, 2016
Beware of being imprisoned by your past

Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man And The Sea was probably the first proper work of literature I read in school. Its vivid descriptions of ocean life and the ultimate heartbreak of the old fisherman stayed with me for long afterwards. I am always drawn to the sea, and for the past few years I have […]

Read More
May 29, 2016
Peculiarly Kenyan occupations for your children

Fear of automation and disruptive change is everywhere. The traditional occupations are all under assault. The rise of artificial intelligence and robotics is expected to lay waste to so many traditional jobs across the world. Some think a third of all current jobs in the world could be rendered obsolete. Even the hallowed professions are […]

Read More
May 22, 2016
Protect your ‘madness’ – it may be your distinction

“You’re only given a little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.” So said Robin Williams, comic genius. I read that recently and found myself nodding, then thinking deeply about it over the days that followed. It is true. You must protect your madness. Robin Williams led a troubled life and committed suicide in 2014. […]

Read More
May 08, 2016
If you want to fight evil, start with yourself

(Photo credit: suchosch / Flickr) Microsoft recently encountered an unexpected problem online. It introduced Tay, an artificially intelligent chat ‘bot’ to the world. It was conducting an experiment to see if Tay would learn from its conversations with people online and get progressively smarter. It was a train smash. Within 24 hours, Tay had turned […]

Read More
May 01, 2016
Arresting the evil that lurks within us

I heard of a disturbing incident recently. Some young schoolchildren came across a cute little stray kitten in their compound. Far from being enticed by its innocence, they decided to pick it up and throw it against a wall. Repeatedly. Picture the scene: the tiny, helpless animal tries desperately to escape; the children grab it […]

Read More
Apr 24, 2016
The things money can’t buy

We are obsessed with, fixated on and deranged by money in this country. From the top dogs to the little mutts – all seem to wake up with just one overwhelming thought in mind: “how do I lay my hands on more money?” Money, we think, is the escape from poverty and misery and the […]

Read More
Apr 10, 2016
Life lessons from a happy porter

(Photo credit: Pixabay) The temperature was more than 40 degrees celsius. Dubai in summer is no joke, and when we arrived at the airport and stepped out of the air-conditioned car, it was like stepping into a furnace. Nonetheless a porter came running up in the blinding heat to take our bags and load them […]

Read More
Mar 13, 2016
Could we all calm down and focus on our own lives?

This country just revels in drama. Every day it’s the same. A dramatic new bunch of stories to consume. Corruption accusations and counter-accusations. Televised arrests and sackings. Campaign insults and counter-insults. Hysterical family inheritance fights. Grim warnings of trouble to come. Pleas of innocence and claims of witch-hunts. Courtroom battles. Seven-day ultimatums. Who needs pulp […]

Read More
Jan 31, 2016
Are you a ‘dead sea?’

(Sunday Nation, 31 January 2016) One thing that’s great about social media is that it reconnects you with old friends. Andrew Blacknell and I have a shared history. We went into our first job together, straight out of university. We were fresh-faced junior management consultants in one of the big consulting practices of the time, […]

Read More
Jan 24, 2016
Where is everyone in Nairobi rushing to?

It’s Nairobi. There is, of course, a traffic jam. Many, many people are stuck in their vehicles. What is interesting is how agitated everyone gets. No one is calm. No one is reflective. No one meditates. No one takes the opportunity to catch up with the news headlines on the radio; to chill out to […]

Read More
Jan 17, 2016
Our obsession with the ‘secrets’ of examination success

Every year, it’s the same. Every year Kenya’s public examination results are announced. Every year, the whole nation goes into a frenzy. Every year, we are told about “winners and losers.” Every year, there will be a newspaper article where the most successful students are asked to reveal the “secrets” of their success. And every […]

Read More
Earth from Moon
Jan 03, 2016
In 2016, please start to play BIG

As 2016 opens and you trudge back to normal life, I fear you are about to do something very predictable. You are about to play SMALL. You will greet a few people and ask them the same banal questions about their holidays. You will settle down at your desk and use your employer’s bandwidth to […]

Read More
Dec 27, 2015
What is your calling?

As the year ends and most of us spend some time away from work, we should cast an eye back. What is the actual work we did in 2015? Was it the work we should have been doing – or something else altogether? By the work you should be doing, I am referring to your […]

Read More
Dec 06, 2015
Let us pray, said Pope Francis

During his epochal visit to Kenya last week, Pope Francis was repeatedly heard exhorting: don’t forget to pray. Whether we are grappling with tribalism, poverty, materialism or corruption, he told us, one of the answers lies in prayer. I agree. But only if we try to understand the meaning of the word ‘prayer’ a little […]

Read More
Nov 22, 2015
Waiting for Pope Francis, champion of the poor

“Lombardi had served as the spokesman for (pope) Benedict, formerly known as Joseph Ratzinger, a man of Germanic precision. After meeting with a world leader, the former pope would emerge and rattle off an incisive summation, Lombardi tells me, with palpable wistfulness: “It was incredible. Benedict was so clear. He would say: ‘We have spoken […]

Read More
Nov 15, 2015
When vehicles start driving themselves – what happens next?

Last week I wrote about the phenomenon of autonomous vehicles that is on the horizon. Some futurists think that this technology will rival the smartphone in its potential to disrupt our world. This week, let’s trace out where the effects may fall. As indicated last week, car ownership will change dramatically. Consumer purchasing of cars […]

Read More
Nov 08, 2015
What will self-driving cars do to your world?

Is it time to discuss self-driving cars? Five years ago, I started telling my clients to start thinking about autonomous vehicles. At the time, I admit that I thought I was engaging in a bit of science fiction. Whilst it was important to imagine the consequences of a world in which vehicles drove themselves, in […]

Read More
Nov 01, 2015
5 years on Twitter: some personal reflections

Five years ago this month, reluctantly and apprehensively, I joined Twitter. I had many reservations about my first foray into the then-nascent phenomenon of social media. I feared that I would have little worth saying in a mere 140 characters, and that I would be distracted from my main work in life; that I would […]

Read More
Oct 25, 2015
Where the ignorant clap for the immoral

An article I wrote here a couple of weeks ago seemed to excite much reaction. Online as well as in person, many Kenyans seemed keen to tell me why the temptation to be like the looters all around us is so strong. So this week let me go further. Much further. Of course it’s tempting. […]

Read More

Archives