Articles Tagged Strategy

Jan 22, 2023
This airline’s recent meltdown has lessons for us all

Southwest Airlines has been the business-education world’s poster-child for the longest time. It started life half a century ago as an upstart low-cost disruptor, and grew steadily to become a huge airline—and a hugely popular one. It now has more than 700 aircraft, and it is also, in an industry dogged by regular downturns and […]

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Jan 08, 2023
Morocco played long. So can you

Team Morocco were the sensation of the recent FIFA World Cup tournament in Qatar, were they not? They not only made it out of a brutal group, but they took the successive scalps of some of the biggest European nations: Belgium, Spain, and Portugal. They became the first team from the African continent to make […]

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Dec 18, 2022
What do your organisation’s core values actually say?

Let me apologize in advance: I am about to upset a bunch of people this Sunday. If you are part of a large corporation, I want to discuss your core values. You know, those lofty things on your walls, your computer screens, your office mugs. They are supposed to be your guiding lights; your noble […]

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Nov 27, 2022
Who innovates, and why?

Last week I discussed some examples of rapid and effective innovation, highlighting the “YO!” chain of sushi restaurants. That business could have taken a fatal hit from the COVID-19 pandemic, given the high-touch nature of its business; but lo and behold, it’s still alive, still kicking, still growing. Others didn’t experience that fortunate an outcome. […]

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Nov 20, 2022
How one business overcame a major setback

I’m a great lover of sushi, and many years ago I came across my first kaitenzushi restaurant, in Hamburg of all places. This involves a conveyer belt snaking through an eatery, winding its way past diners. Chefs prepare their offerings in advance and place them in little containers on the belt. Diners look at what’s […]

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May 22, 2022
How companies get to celebrate their 100th birthdays

Large corporations don’t really have long lives. It is estimated that the average lifespan of a large American company is under 20 years these days. Many enjoy short-lived success, and then just fail and go bankrupt. Others get merged or acquired. Why should this be? As I wrote in my book The Bigger Deal, corporate […]

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May 15, 2022
Why books are still booming in the digital era

This wasn’t supposed to happen. The prolonged global pandemic accelerated all things digital. We embraced electronic ways of doing things: digital payments, virtual meetings, online shopping, video streaming, instant messaging, web-based learning. Devices and software boomed as never before; many old ways of doing things took a permanent hit. Using cash, going to cinemas, travelling […]

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May 08, 2022
An iconic company hits a speed bump

Netflix is tanking. Or rather, its stock price is—which is a rather different thing. What should we make of this? Netflix is one of the iconic companies of this epoch, a trailblazer and game-changer. It upended traditional video, moving people away from linear television and movie theatres. It has been on a seemingly unstoppable spend-and-grow […]

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Mar 27, 2022
The business lessons of the pandemic

Picture yourself driving on a fog-filled road you don’t know too well. You suddenly realise you’re approaching a curve—and it’s rather a sharp one. Seasoned drivers will not slam on the brakes suddenly—that might have unpredictable consequences. Rather, they will start slowing down before they get to the sharp part of the curve. Then, when […]

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Mar 06, 2022
How to humanize your business as you digitize it

The heat is on. The pandemic years have precipitated a massive acceleration in all things digital. We know the world revved forward right under our feet. We know we are all doing things that seemed alien to many in 2019: buying much more stuff online; making our homes entertainment hubs; holding remote meetings; using online […]

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Feb 20, 2022
What you sell is not what your customer buys

If you sell something (which is most of us), here’s one of the most important sentences you’ll ever read: “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole.” That was written by Harvard professor Clayton M. Christensen, who attributed it to Theodore Levitt. It probably came from Leo McGivena, originally. Whatever […]

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Jan 23, 2022
Thinking like a strategist about potatoes and chips

Many years ago I was sitting in a hotel abroad. I was part of an international multidisciplinary team advising that country’s government on its infrastructure strategy. We were about to have lunch. The order was made. We chatted. In a short while, though, our waiter was back with news. “We can’t offer any of the […]

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Dec 12, 2021
Stand out, don’t embrace average

Picture this.  You are part of a large group flying to Kenya’s world-famous Maasai Mara game reserve. Your plane is gliding down, and the vast green expanse opens up beneath you. You approach the tiny airstrip from the air, and what do you see? The four-wheel-drive vehicles waiting to receive your group have all been […]

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Nov 21, 2021
The era of customer primacy is finally loading

What if you could get your weekly groceries—or a few impulse buys— all delivered to you in ten minutes? Not an hour; ten minutes. Founded six years ago and accelerated by the global pandemic, Getir is leading a posse of ultrafast delivery providers. It started operations in Turkey and is now valued at close to […]

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Oct 10, 2021
A time of great innovation is loading. Where will it find you?

A year ago, I discussed Pret a Manger on this page. The super-successful London sandwich chain serving office workers, with more than Sh 100 billion in annual sales, had just been whacked hard by the coronavirus. It suffered its lowest footfall on record and had to make a third of its employees redundant. As offices […]

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Aug 15, 2021
How do you fight Amazon?

If the behemoth that is Amazon enters your industry, how on earth do you fight it? Amazon has bottomless financial resources. It has remarkable strategic vision. It is the trailblazer in online shopping with decades of experience behind it. It cannot be beaten on price or convenience. What the hell do you do? Take a […]

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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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