Articles Tagged Success

Oct 17, 2021
A Nobel Prize of great meaning

Abdulrazak Gurnah won the Nobel Prize for Literature last week, and it meant a great deal. He is only the fifth person of African birth to win the prize, and the closest to our own shores—his birthplace is Zanzibar, that captivating, mysterious island across the waters from Kenya. Why is this such a big deal? […]

Read More
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 […]

Read More
Oct 03, 2021
Age gracefully, and leave your toys behind

A fond memory from childhood popped up in my head the other day. The neighbourhood kids were all out playing, as was the norm back then. There were no “devices” available to us other than makeshift toys, perhaps a ball or two. Entertainment was confined to a single cartoon show from the Voice of Kenya […]

Read More
Sep 26, 2021
How much is too much? We seem to have no idea

This gentleman once had a big corporate job. He was an executive director at a large business, at global level. Finding his work bereft of meaning, however, he didn’t last. He catapulted himself out of his office chair and into a life of doing the work he actually loves—studying, teaching, guiding, advising, writing. James Suzman […]

Read More
Sep 05, 2021
When to persist, and when to desist? A booklover’s tale

Nilanjana Roy is a wonderful columnist for the Financial Times. She is, like me, a devoted bibliophile. She revels in her love of literature and enrols many in the cause of reading. She recently penned a piece that really got me thinking about how I read books. My why, as regular readers of this page will know, is crystal […]

Read More
Aug 22, 2021
Why I was unmoved by Messi’s tears

Lionel Messi cried. A lot. Football’s leading icon showed up at a press conference to announce his sudden departure from his beloved club, FC Barcelona, after two glorious decades there. As he stood to make his speech he faltered, his voice breaking. Then came the flood of tears. After recovering, he went on to say […]

Read More
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 […]

Read More
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 […]

Read More
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 […]

Read More
Jul 18, 2021
How the halo effect dumbs us all down

It didn’t come home. In one of their most hyped football tournaments ever, England performed extremely well – but fell at the last hurdle, losing on penalties to Italy in the 2020 European Championship final last week. More on that to come, but first, let’s talk about one of the curious phenomena of human behaviour. […]

Read More
Jul 04, 2021
Here are three personal skills your children will need

I have a lot of time for Margaret Heffernan. She writes really thought-provoking books; acts as a mentor and guide to many leaders; and is a lecturer in real-world leadership. Oh, and she has also been a BBC producer and a tech entrepreneur! CV aside, Ms Heffernan is an extremely clear and lucid thinker. In […]

Read More
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 […]

Read More
Jun 13, 2021
So you can’t find great women for your organization? Really?

A decade ago, there was a question I was regularly asked by chairmen and CEOs. It went something like this: “I need to have more women on my board and senior management team. But where do I find them?” The question was usually asked by males of a certain vintage. It was perhaps forgivable then […]

Read More
Jun 06, 2021
Do you have a N’golo Kanté on your team?

The shortest man on the pitch won more aerial headers than any of his team-mates. N’golo Kanté, the one-man midfield dynamo, won the UEFA Champions League 2021 for his club, Chelsea FC. He was player-of-the-match in both semi-final legs and the final itself.  N’golo runs and runs and runs. He breaks up opponents’ play, and […]

Read More
May 30, 2021
I have been wrong many times. That’s OK

An admission: I have been wrong many times – right here on this page. That should not be news to anyone, but somehow it is. We are, all of us, prone to error. We can not only be wrong, but egregiously, terribly wrong. To err is human, as Alexander Pope pointed out aeons ago (and […]

Read More
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 […]

Read More
May 16, 2021
Education must escape the tyranny of the clock

It has taken me decades to learn how to eat slowly. I tend to gobble down my meal and finish in just a few minutes. This is not a good thing. Modern nutritionists advise that we eat and drink slowly and carefully. So why am I like this? The genesis of the problem is high […]

Read More
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 […]

Read More
Apr 25, 2021
This skill will still be very valuable in the future world of work

We are rushing headlong into a world of virtual meetings and digital interactions. As I outlined here last week, we all need to raise our digital game: running meetings on Zoom; building teams on Teams; delivering projects on Basecamp. It is tempting to think that new-world skills – working with software, deploying new-fangled hardware – […]

Read More
Apr 11, 2021
Relationships are better when you don’t keep score

Don’t keep score. That’s the advice professor Scott Galloway gives people, often imparted on his podcasts. He refers to the habit of tallying that bedevils our closest relationships. Some of us mistake relationships to be merely a series of transactions. You were good to me, so I can return the favour. You were generous yesterday, […]

Read More
Apr 04, 2021
There are no commodities, only opportunities

Plumbers are needed by everyone. It’s a vital service, because all homes and buildings will encounter plumbing issues. What needs to be done is usually straightforward, but it’s also messy and awkward – and so not many folks aspire to be plumbers. Those who do take it up as an occupation seem to despise their […]

Read More
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, […]

Read More
Feb 28, 2021
Would Messi qualify for your team?

If you have worked for large organizations, you will have come across the competency model. You will have discovered that humans are ranked according to a pre-set group of competencies, or qualities that you are meant to demonstrate in order to excel in your job.  What are these competencies? Things like customer focus, teamwork, goal […]

Read More
Feb 21, 2021
Before starting your own business, ask: Why will customers choose you?

Many people on this planet dream of starting their own businesses, and some of them bring those dreams to me. My key first question is usually: “Which business are you thinking of?” I’ve lost count of the number of times the answer is this: “I want to open a restaurant or a farm, because everyone […]

Read More
Feb 14, 2021
To write better, read better

Last week on this page: if you want to write better, the path is the practice of writing. You don’t get better at writing by just thinking, talking or dreaming about writing. You get better by actually writing. The practice is the learning; the doing is the improving. This week on this page: if you […]

Read More
Feb 07, 2021
The way to learn to write better is to write more

One of the most frequent questions I get is this one: I want to be a successful writer; what advice/tips/help can you give me? Let’s answer that question once and for all. The best response is given by a writer writing about another writer. I sometimes think it’s impossible for Seth Godin to put out […]

Read More
Jan 31, 2021
It’s Team Biden, not Biden…

So America has a new president, and wherever I look, I see news about the new administration’s plans and programmes. The Biden immigration plan. The Biden climate policy. The Biden antitrust approach. The Biden anti-COVID programme. The Biden economic stimulus. What’s wrong with that, you ask? The word BIDEN! For some reason we humans just […]

Read More
Jan 24, 2021
What my grandmother knew about business success

My late grandmother, as those who knew her will confirm, was quite a character. She was feisty and bold and well ahead of her time. She told you what she thought of you, right to your face. I recall one moment as a teenager. I was sitting with her waiting for the evening news to […]

Read More

Archives