Articles Tagged Sunday Nation

Oct 29, 2023
We can be true to ourselves even as we thrive in a group

A close reader of this column pointed out to me last week that my recent offerings are displaying a certain pattern. When I asked him to elaborate, he pointed out that there is recurring theme, and it’s all about authenticity. Rereading my own work, I saw his point. In recent weeks I have highlighted three […]

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Oct 08, 2023
Could you have a more successful business by NOT competing?

Last week I offered some life advice: don’t compare, don’t compete. The key points were these: that you will have a richer life if you focus on yourself, not others; that you will actually thrive more by comparing yourself against your earlier selves rather than outsiders; and you will be released from the daily angst […]

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Oct 01, 2023
We have richer lives when we are not consumed by competition

You’re a schoolchild, doing your best in your lessons. You get good grades most of the time, sometimes exceptional ones. You’re not top of your class, but you’re in the mix. All is well, right? Not really. Because your teachers and parents keep pointing you to the achievements of your classmates who are clocking the […]

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Sep 24, 2023
Do you have substance, or are you just ‘fru-fru?’

My wife has an interesting word she uses to describe many aspects of life: “fru-fru.” Today’s column is written not with the help of my new friend, ChatGPT, but a longstanding one, Mrs B. What is fru-fru? A superficially frilly, misleading appearance. It can be used to describe people or offerings that emphasize sweet, empty […]

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Sep 10, 2023
A culture of service is a huge business advantage

A recent experience at a hotel made me pause and reflect. I had looked over the wide array of desserts available in the lunch buffet, and chosen a nice looking mousse in a long-stemmed glass. After carrying the sweet dish back to my table, I noticed that the dessert spoon already laid out there was […]

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Sep 03, 2023
How engaged are the employees where you work?

Employee engagement is a very big deal. Much of what differentiates mediocre organizations from excellent ones is this very simple thing: do the people who work there care about their work? Will they give of their best, and will they go the extra mile? High employee engagement, though, is very rare! The people at Gallup […]

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Aug 27, 2023
What would you do if you faced this business dilemma?

Gary Vaynerchuk, serial entrepreneur and digital marketing evangelist, begins his new book, Twelve and a Half, with an interesting anecdote. GaryVee, as he is known on social media, runs VaynerMedia, a creative agency. He tells us he once had to attend a very difficult meeting with a leading client. This stemmed from a bad mistake […]

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Aug 13, 2023
Waiting for a better time? Don’t.

Arthur Ashe was a true trailblazer. He was the first black player to win tennis’s grand slam tournaments. He won Wimbledon in 1975, and became the world’s number-one ranked player in that year. Ashe’s life reflected some very famous words: “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” So much said, […]

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Aug 06, 2023
Are you a complacent incumbent? You’re inviting disruption

Disruption, says Scott Galloway, is more about the incumbents than the disruptors. What does the Stern School of Business professor mean? In his words: “Disruption is driven by stasis and the incompetence of incumbents.” We have seen this again and again. Take the taxi rides business. Sure, Uber arrived with a game-changing business model and […]

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Jul 30, 2023
A misadventure in home food delivery—and some business lessons

The alarm bell rang in my head, but I did it anyway. I was trying to order dinner using a home delivery app, from one of my regular, favourite restaurants. For some reason the app was showing “restaurant not available” on that day. We decided to call the restaurant directly, to ask what was wrong. […]

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Jul 23, 2023
Life is best lived in a state of wonder

Flying over our continent recently, I noticed an interesting place name on the map that was tracking my journey on the screen in front of my seat. Chad, it turns out, has a town called “Ati”—a sizeable place with its own airport. What an excellent name for a habitat of humans, I thought. “Ati/Eti” in […]

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Jul 16, 2023
It’s not just the drivers who lost control—we all did.

Kenya’s road carnage continues unabated. It has always been thus, since I was a child. Thousands die every year in unnecessary road crashes. Innocents—passengers, pedestrians, roadside vendors—have their lives cut short year after year. A survey run by the Kenya Red Cross a decade ago told us that most of those who die are vulnerable […]

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Jul 09, 2023
Lessons in humility and humanity from a departed CEO

I learned with sadness of the unexpected passing of Sir Ivan Menezes recently. I only met Ivan, Diageo’s global chief executive, once—last year, during East African Breweries’ 100th year celebrations. I sat next to him at dinner and we shared many interesting reflections on business, leadership and strategy. I left that dinner thinking: aha, so […]

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Jul 02, 2023
Be wary of fairy stories about business success

I read this hilarious tweet a while back and bookmarked it. It is from Andrew Wilkinson, an entrepreneur, characterising entrepreneurs giving advice thus: “Here’s the number I used to win the lottery.”  I’ve stopped laughing now, enough to think and write about that excellent sentence.  Young folks lining up to listen to successful entrepreneurs talk […]

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Jun 11, 2023
What separates doers from dreamers?

A reader of this column sent me a pointed question recently, which went something like this: Many of us are full of dreams; we have high hopes for our futures, most of which end up unfulfilled. What then separates those who achieve from those who just dream? Great question! Let me have a go at […]

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Jun 04, 2023
Lost in a sea of sameness

When I was young, cars all looked different. The first car I ever drove was a Datsun 120Y—my mother’s—and it had a cutely weird boxy shape. It could not be mistaken for any other car. Similar Japanese makes—Toyota, Honda, Mazda—all had distinctive shapes and styling.  In those days, a Peugeot looked distinctively like a Peugeot; […]

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May 21, 2023
Most human failures follow this predictable trajectory

In Ernest Hemingway’s famous novel, The Sun Also Rises, a character is asked how he went bankrupt. “In two ways,” he answers. “Gradually and then suddenly.” A famous sentence, one that aptly describes how businesses go down. We get fixated on the sudden events that occur at the end of the trajectory—banks calling in their […]

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May 14, 2023
Why letting go of power and position is so hard for so many

Last week I discussed the problem of leadership transitions in family firms. Many founders are unable to make meaningful handovers to new leaders, from either within or outside the business. This problem of refusing to let go of the reins, however, is not confined to family businesses. Let’s take a wider look at the issue […]

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Apr 30, 2023
The power—and limitations—of role models

I want to tell you about a certain gentleman today. This person lived in a lower-middle-class estate back in the day, where there were many houses and children packed together, but little by way of recreational facilities for the kids. As a result, the children played mostly on the road—marking out “goals” with chalk to […]

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Apr 23, 2023
Does your business have a soul, or just spreadsheets?

I have a lot of time for James Daunt. He is the man trying valiantly to rescue the bookselling trade, against all odds. As a reader and writer I look on, gripped by the hope that bookstores can withstand the onslaught of online sellers and e-books. James Daunt was once an investment banker. In his […]

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Apr 16, 2023
Why do you ask for customer feedback?

You’re familiar, I’m sure, with the guest feedback survey that hotels send out to those who have stayed with them. You click a link, provide some ratings based on your experience of the hotel, and perhaps some more detailed points if you have the time or inclination. That opportunity, however, is typically provided soon after […]

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Apr 09, 2023
Nairobi’s unending rain dance: prayer without preparation

More than a decade ago, before Nairobi had governors, I wrote here that we need a governor that makes rain the blessing it is supposed to be, and not a curse. Many governors have come and gone, but the rain still beats us. I wrote then: “In this city, rain is anything but a blessing. […]

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Apr 02, 2023
Learning from street hustles

Last week I discussed the Netflix series Street Food Asia. The foodie in me loved looking at the origins and excellence of various dishes: chaat in India; tom yum in Thailand; jajan pasar in Indonesia; putu piring in Singapore. But the student of human endeavour in me was even more impressed. Street food, you see, […]

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Mar 26, 2023
What a father advised his son

Have you watched Street Food Asia on Netflix? If you’re interested in the human being at work, this series is worth a peep. It’s only ostensibly about food; more about the human hustling to eke out a living—and about what it takes to survive and thrive in very difficult environments. One episode, set in Delhi, […]

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Mar 19, 2023
Why do we still tolerate bullies in our organizations?

We all know about bullies at school. They seemed to be ever-present when we were being educated. The kids who were bigger and more aggressive than others, who then intimidated and tormented their smaller and milder-mannered schoolmates. Bullying was rampant when I was in school, and it led to some severe issues in those unfortunate […]

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Mar 12, 2023
What does your customer actually buy?

I am always very interested in long-lived companies and brands. It is not easy to live long as a business, and most do not. What special things do the venerable ones do? This week I cast my eye on a set of products that are always in our kitchen and pantry shelves, and never seem […]

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Mar 05, 2023
Should we be afraid of the new AI?

Is artificial intelligence (AI) finally coming of age? If computers start reasoning and working more like humans, what should we be excited—and worried—about? The world is currently agog trying out ChatGPT, the newest kid on the block. ChatGPT is generative AI: it isn’t intelligent as such, but it has a huge trove of data that […]

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Feb 26, 2023
Learning the difference between cost and investment

There is something my father once told me that has never left me. I was a big book-reader as a boy, and much of my meagre pocket money would go towards buying books, often from Nairobi’s two second-hand bookshops of that time. I was once worried about the spend being incurred, and wondered out loud […]

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