Articles Tagged Strategy

Aug 01, 2021
Clouds, kitchens and landlords – a lesson in strategy

I first mentioned “cloud” kitchens on this page exactly two years ago. Also called “dark” or “ghost” kitchens, these are are stripped-down operations that produce for delivery only – no service, no waiters. They use data to understand what is most in demand, where, and when – and they locate to serve that demand. The […]

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Jul 25, 2021
Less is more. A life lesson

Less is more, good people. Less is more. If you’re about to give a long speech, cut it in half. If you are presenting a slide deck, reduce it to a third of what you planned. And cut away all the superfluous text on every slide as well. Why? Because when you overdo it, it’s […]

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Jun 27, 2021
Can you eat your own dog food?

Many years ago, I was frustrated by an airline’s constant lateness. A batch of clients heading for our leadership programme had again been delayed by many hours, causing big disruption to our carefully laid out schedule. This had become a regular, predictable occurrence. The hotel manager waiting with me told me: “It’s a shame that […]

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Jun 20, 2021
Are you looking up and ahead?

About a decade ago I began telling bankers in this part of the world: you are probably looking at “peak bank branch” in the years to come. In which year will your branch network peak – and then begin to reduce in numbers? Ten years ago no one really paid attention. It took another five […]

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May 23, 2021
What does it take to become a 200-year organization?

The Guardian newspaper is 200 years old. I first started reading it in the first year of my degree course in London. It was not normal reading for a student of economics and business – which is precisely why I was attracted to it. I’ve never stopped reading it, decades later, even from a different […]

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May 09, 2021
The future will belong to those who can humanize as they digitize

You will stay meaningful in the near future of business if you can do this: Humanize + Digitize. The “digitize” part should be obvious to all, especially after a pandemic that sent everyone hurtling into a low-touch world. Online transactions and digital experiences have boomed as never before. In most sectors we have no choice […]

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Mar 14, 2021
How honest are you about your products?

Have you ever come across a restaurant that says these things about some of its menu items? “This one is not THAT good.” “This one is NOT authentic…” “I am surprised some customers still order this plate.” Those are actual dish descriptions on the menu of the Aunt Dai Chinese restaurant in Montreal. The owner, […]

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Jan 07, 2021
The 4BY4 Leader: Our first open, virtual programme. Join us!

I have been running learning programmes for leaders for decades now, trying to deliver essential knowledge and create a cadre of chief executives and senior managers who can drive better, wiser organizations. Those programmes all had common features, though: they were in-person, and aimed at the senior-most echelons. The global pandemic allowed us to experiment […]

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Nov 08, 2020
Is your board stuck in yesterday’s successes?

Have you heard of Nokia? Had I asked that in 2010 it would have been an impertinent question. At the time Nokia was the dominant global mobile phone company. In my seminars of those days, perhaps nine in 10 of those present would be sporting a Nokia device. Today, asking if you know Nokia is […]

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Oct 18, 2020
Why do big, successful businesses freeze?

Two entrepreneurs sat nervously. They were at the headquarters of a business one thousand times their size, with an audacious proposal. It had taken them months to convince the big man to even meet them. The meeting did not take long. The answer was a flat no. Goodbye. The year was 2000. One one side […]

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Oct 11, 2020
Is your product too useful to ignore?

Google Maps has more than one billion active users. Nine zeroes. I use it every day. You probably do too. It’s just too damn convenient to ignore, isn’t it? It maps the city out perfectly, tells you where the traffic is and which roads to avoid, estimates pretty accurate arrival times, and allows you to […]

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Sep 27, 2020
If your business takes one in the face, get back up quickly

The British love their sandwiches. Ever since the 4th Earl of Sandwich popularised the idea of fillings placed between two slices of bread (supposedly to allow him to do other things like work at his desk, or play cards, while eating) the sandwich has been a phenomenon. When I was studying and working in London, […]

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Aug 02, 2020
It’s time to come out of fight-or-flight mode

Fight, or flight? When Covid-19 first appeared in our consciousness, most of us were dismissive. This can’t be real. The entire world can’t shut down like this. It must be a hoax. Or a conspiracy. Surely. As the cases began to mount – and more importantly, the many thousands of deaths around the world became […]

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Jul 26, 2020
Software is indeed eating the world. Will it eat yours?

Marc Andreessen made this visionary statement nearly a decade ago: “Software is eating the world.” Most people above a certain age, or wedded to certain traditions, did not really pay attention. I deal in solid, tangible stuff, they said. Machinery. Food. Classrooms. Newspapers. Surgeries. Software can’t do that, they said. Hoax. Fake news. 2020 has […]

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Jun 28, 2020
Be part of the big move from transactions to experiences

I have written here that the word ADAPTATION has loomed large throughout this coronavirus pandemic: most humans have adapted themselves to new normals in their lives and businesses, sometimes with great ingenuity. Today I want to focus on a similar word: ADOPTION. This word too is pivotal in understanding what will become of consumer and […]

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Jun 07, 2020
When bytes and pixels start doing the travelling

I attended an elite global conference the other day. It had speakers and panels consisting of some of the world’s top business leaders and thinkers, and ran over three days. You’re thinking: wait – where on earth was this held, during a pandemic? And how did you get there? And why would you risk going? […]

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May 31, 2020
Businesses just got reminded of some old wisdoms

Some businesses have really suffered in this coronavirus pandemic; others are weathering the storm quite well. That might seem obvious, since some industries as a whole are better placed in this crisis. We can’t compare the fortunes of airlines and hotels right now with those producing home entertainment, say.  My point is a little different. […]

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May 24, 2020
Why most of us didn’t see the pandemic coming

I didn’t see the coronavirus pandemic coming. I’m a strategy advisor, someone who sifts through the signals the world throws up to discern what might be about to change and what needs a response. But I didn’t see this one coming. Did you? In January many of us were looking forward to a rather different […]

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May 03, 2020
To be ready for the new normal, start working on these 3 things

9/11. Most people know what those numbers mean. On September 11, 2001, a series of unprecedented terror attacks took place right on American soil. Four passenger airliners were commandeered by terrorists; three of them were deliberately crashed into buildings. As you would imagine, air travel volumes plummeted, throwing airlines into crisis. But after a raft […]

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Apr 26, 2020
Life after coronavirus begins now

Last week I suggested here that because of the coronavirus we may all be staring at a ‘Low-Touch, High-Friction’ world for quite a while. Such a world would have two key characteristics. The first (the touch part) would be that folks would be reluctant to gather in person and in public as freely and easily […]

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Apr 19, 2020
Here comes the Low-Touch, High-Friction world

So many of us feel imprisoned in our own homes, staring at the same walls, missing contact with others, tired of dealing with family issues. So many of us are just waiting to be told that the coronavirus pandemic is over, that lockdowns and shutdowns are over, and that we can burst out into the […]

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Apr 12, 2020
Get ready for ‘uncomfortable innovation’

The comfortable don’t innovate. I’ve been saying that to businesses and writing it on this page for years. Now I have my words ringing in my own ears. My business depended on gathering people – to teach them, advise them, provoke them to think and do things differently. Suddenly (thank you, coronavirus) no-one can gather […]

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Mar 29, 2020
Now more than ever: the steering wheel must connect to the tyres

More than a decade ago I asked on this page: is Kenya’s steering wheel connected to its tyres? The imagery is half-comical: of leaders merrily spinning the steering wheel thinking they are driving the car; the vehicle, meanwhile, goes where it wants. The issue was very serious, though; I raised it in the light of […]

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Feb 16, 2020
Try this for your business – no goals, no comparisons

Let me tell you about a company that does not set any goals or targets. None. Don’t rub your eyes; you read that right. No customer-count goals. No revenue goals. No retention goals. No profit goals. You don’t believe me, do you? Oh wait, this company also doesn’t analyse its competitors. It has no market-share […]

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Feb 09, 2020
Radio cassette? What’s that?

Do you know what a ‘radio cassette player’ is?  I ask because it really depends on what age you are. There is a large chunk of young Kenyans (and, I hope, of the readers of this column) who have never experienced such a thing. Even if you do know what it is, when was the […]

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Dec 01, 2019
Are you working on anything that will outlast you?

A question for you: do you remember something called the ‘Zune’? Not really, I guess. Another question: do you remember something called the ‘iPod’? Of course you do. Both were MP3 music players. Here’s the thing, though. The Zune, made by Microsoft, was the far superior product, in most respects. And yet it failed miserably […]

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Nov 10, 2019
Will Uber run out of road?

Uber is a very big deal, and I was enthusiastic about it long before any of us experienced it in Kenya. Can anyone doubt the achievement? Uber revolutionized the taxi business by conceiving a marvellous mobile app that connected people seeking rides with drivers willing to offer them. By tapping into an unused stock of […]

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Oct 06, 2019
To survive, lead the change – don’t deny it

Last week I warned that many large corporates were in ‘slow puncture’ mode – with their current business models deflating slowly, all the while pretending all is well. I had referenced Marks and Spencer, Britain’s once iconic, now troubled retail giant. In the days since, another icon bit the dust. Thomas Cook, a huge travel […]

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