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HBOS report yields three important lessons for all businesses

British regulators have finally published their report into HBOS, the bank formed from the merger of Halifax with Bank of Scotland, more than seven years after its collapse. The 600-odd pages contain much detail on events and personalities. But there are general lessons for all businesses. Avoid the diversifier’s fallacy. Beware the winner’s curse. Fear adverse selection.

The best strategy is to be good at whatever it is you do

Michael Porter warned on the danger of being “stuck in the middle”. Companies, he said, must either gain a cost advantage or emphasise product differentiation. But what really matters is enjoying a competitive advantage in the market position you choose.

The welfare cap replaces political judgment with spin

Whatever initial misconceptions spin doctors may promote, reality will out.

The Co-op’s mistake was to detach responsibility from power

The test of an organisational structure is not how it handles success but how it copes when things go wrong.

Being ethical in business is not as simple as ‘doing the right thing’

Ethics are about what to do when good behaviour and profitable business are not necessarily the same thing.

Britain’s ‘great leap forward’ was start of nuclear power failure

British technological failures have been compounded by a political phenomenon I have come to think of as “great leap forward syndrome”. The idea is that the best way to compensate for stumbles and missteps is to move, at one bound, ahead of the field.

The oft-forgotten basics of negotiation

Negotiations over Scottish independence are framed by the observation that neither the rest of the UK nor the EU has anything significant to gain from such negotiation – or any wish to conduct such negotiation at all.

Sometimes, a spot of collusion can be a very good thing

Modern life involves complex and multidimensional products. It is perhaps inevitable that price structures appear similarly complex and multidimensional.

Sometimes the best that a company can hope for is death

Humans have always found it hard to cope with the idea that every individual has a lifespan even as life itself goes on. The idea of a natural life cycle for a business, or industrial centre, is even more difficult to accept.

Darwin’s humbling lesson for business

The match between capabilities and environment is the key to the success of the tortoise. It is also the key to successful business strategy, the effectiveness of institutions, and to personal development.