"CEOs can't wait to read Sunny Bindra's articles every week."

Feb 27, 2022
The forgotten teaching method: culture

Hidden in Seth Godin’s book The Practice was a profound observation about how we learn things. Allow me to paraphrase the lesson today. Seth observed that if you study kids of Indian origin in US cities, you may not find a huge liking for things like tandoori chicken or shrimp vindaloo. Yet, kids with the […]

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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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Feb 13, 2022
What’s your legacy going to be?

There comes an age when some us start to think about our legacy: What we will leave behind; what we stood for in our lives. This is because we are consciously or unconsciously aware of our impermanence as humans. We know we are here briefly and then we are gone. Some of us are desperate […]

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Feb 06, 2022
How hard do you make it for your customers to deal with you?

I wrote here recently about my savvy neighbourhood shop guy, the one who’s had a turbocharged pandemic. He’s gone from being just the milk ’n’ bread kiosk to a shop supplying a wide range of groceries to the hood. How did he do that? Just by making the lives of his customers easier. You call […]

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Jan 30, 2022
We spend so much time on leaders. What about followers?

We fixate on leaders and leadership. The people who are elected by us, appointed for us, who sit above us—these become the objects of our gaze. Leaders, we feel, can make or break situations, corporations, nations. The quality of leaders seems to be the single biggest success factor behind any collective human enterprise. Get the […]

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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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Jan 16, 2022
Why your little neighbourhood shop may be thriving

Let me tell you the story of S, who runs a little shop—a kaduka—in my hood. S started off operating from a tiny makeshift kiosk. He was the milk ’n’ bread guy for our house, and for many on our street. Every morning the regular order would arrive, like clockwork—one less thing for us to […]

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Jan 09, 2022
Three reflections from Desmond Tutu

Desmond Tutu is no more. You will by now have read plenty about this storied African’s manifold achievements. The always smiling Archbishop was a man of courage, wisdom—and much irreverent humour. Allow me to share three of his insights that have stayed with me over the years. The first is this very cheeky observation, coming […]

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Jan 02, 2022
Three life lessons for 2022

A new year is a good time to take stock. What’s been happening, what have we learned, what should we change? What should end, and what should commence? These past two years have been highly unusual for pretty much everyone. We have all lived through a global pandemic, a first for most of us. We […]

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Dec 30, 2021
My Top Books of 2021

  I read 95 books in 2021. I didn’t quite make it to the heights of 2020, but that’s OK. Still way more than my annual target of 50. Here are the best books I encountered, new and old. The usual caveat applies: which books we love is very much a personal matter. This is […]

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Dec 19, 2021
How to be a better board chairperson

I am happy to see many good people I know ascending to the position of board chair in recent months and years. This special position needs many more people of wisdom and restraint. If you hope to be a chairperson someday, please keep reading. First, let’s clear up what the person chairing the board of […]

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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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Dec 05, 2021
How best to honour those who depart

Death stalks the human. We live, and then we die. We all know this, and yet we don’t. It is a deeply uncomfortable truth, this fact of our impending nullification. We see it, but we don’t wish to. Indeed we live most of our lives in denial of the full stop to come. We lose […]

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Nov 28, 2021
That person in front of you? Unreliable narrator alert…

Ever since I first discovered them, I have loved unreliable narrators in literature. Those folks who seem to be earnestly recounting a story, but whose narratives seem to be a little off, not quite adding up, so that some disquiet is created in the reader. And then gently it is revealed: this narrator is not […]

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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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Nov 14, 2021
To offer great customer experience, first deliver great employee experience

Someone close to me, visiting from abroad, was left confounded recently. He had gone to one of our leading retailers in Nairobi to buy a laptop for his family here. He had chosen the model. He had the money ready. He was ready to take it home.  Oops. It turned out the shop didn’t actually […]

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Nov 07, 2021
Not holding on to staff? Mind the hidden costs

You can leave this job anytime. There are many more where you came from. Hundreds out there would die for your job.  Have you uttered those words as an employer? Or had them uttered to you as an employee? They are commonplace, even right now in the 21st century. Many of those who employ others […]

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Oct 31, 2021
If you find yourself in a hateful mob, you’re being played

Here’s what those who believe in Covid-19 vaccinations believe about the “anti-vaxxers:” That they are gullible and swayed by manipulative messaging; and that they will regret their decision. Here in turn is what anti-vaxxers believe about vaxxers: That they are gullible and swayed by manipulative messaging; and that they will regret their decision. No diehard […]

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Oct 24, 2021
We strive and thrive in groups—and also fight in groups

Human beings congregate in groups. From early childhood we are enrolled into collectives: extended families, religions, ethnic groupings, nations, skin colours, sports teams, work organizations. Our parents, teachers, community elders, religious leaders, tribal overlords, and national rulers all have great interest in press-ganging us into groups. Even those of us who might resist this herding […]

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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? […]

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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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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 […]

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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 […]

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Sep 19, 2021
Should we let go of outdated dress codes?

Some years ago, I stood up in a boardroom to address the assembled directors. I had been asked to speak to board members on trends in governance and strategy. Before I could speak, however, a hand was raised. A visibly peeved director asked me why I was addressing that room, a gathering of the high […]

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Sep 12, 2021
Are you a good customer?

My first book was Crown Your Customer. It was an early attempt to chronicle the supremacy of the customer. Your business only succeeds if your customers are happy, I wrote, and if they are happy enough to keep buying from you. Place the customer at the centre of your world, and you won’t regret it. […]

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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 […]

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Aug 29, 2021
How much unnecessary pain do you inflict on your customers?

Some years back I was the facilitator for a strategy retreat for a leading corporate, and checked into a hotel for the event. It was a high-level affair; all board members and senior executives were present. A top-notch hotel had therefore been chosen, to cater for the senior attendees and deliver an excellent service experience. […]

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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 […]

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