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Leaders should say goodbye to their haloes

There is no recipe for enduring excellence: the distinctive characteristics that yield competitive advantage, because they are hard to replicate or emulate, will inevitably be more appropriate for some conditions than for others.

Head office must be in the best place for business

The company headquarters should be the place from which the business can best be run. Location decisions often involve proximity to necessary resources. For banks, this nowadays means access to political and commercial capital.

BP and the crude task of balancing cost and danger

Making decisions that balance human life against costs is unavoidable. We prefer them to be made by public agencies than by private companies. And we deny that we make these judgments ourselves, although we do so every day.

Dreams are no basis for a sound corporate strategy

An effective business strategy is not separable from execution and is not based on visions and dreams, but on a match between capabilities and activities.

Arguments for private equity are not always convincing

Private equity promoters propose layer upon layer of debt, leveraged by non-recourse finance. But the same finance theory also tells us that you do not increase the value of an investment portfolio by increasing gearing.

London’s congestion charge has taken a wrong turn

Congestion charging can have a substantial effect on behaviour, but busy commercial centres tend to derive their advantages from the clustering of business activities, which cannot function without large-scale transport of people and goods.

Apple vs Apple (and other fruitless disputes)

The right general principle is that brand names and trade marks should be protected, not where there is a producer interest in doing so, but where there is a consumer detriment from failing to do so.

Why poker can beat investment management hands down

If the measure of skill is how often good performance repeats itself, poker is a more skilful activity than investment management.

Fallen companies rarely make it back to the top

Competitive advantage is bound up with a company’s history and needs to be matched to market opportunity. When it is lost or the market evolves, the consequences are generally fatal.

Musicians’ demands for copyright extension are off key

Intellectual property rules are an attempt to strike a balance between conflicting public interests and the need to provide economic incentives. However, companies should find commercial success through new products, not new legislation.