Friday, June 13, 2008

Three Things I learned From Mohammad Yunus

June is graduation month and I got to double dip -my niece's MIT graduation and commencement speech by Mohammad Yunus, in person - all at once.

For me, it wouldn't have mattered what he said- the symbolism of Yunus, with all that he represents, standing at the podium, was enough. By inviting Yunus, MIT faculty is publicly telling its grads, hey look - we know "Each of you has the power to change the world" and this is the direction - a better world for all. Maybe, I don't give enough credit to MIT but I was surprised when I found out. And maybe Yunus was too - because he started his speech with an ad lib that taught me lesson number one.

Relate first and find common ground: he started by thanking MIT for making him feel right at home by bringing on the rain (yes it was pouring out there), just like the monsoons in his native Bangladesh. I could feel the collective tension of a few thousand people dissipate - hey its only water and we are all in it together!

Individual: The "New" Businessman: "money-making is a means, not an end. But for the businessman in the existing theory money-making is both a means and also an end." Businesses have only one metric of success but humans are multifaceted: as people, he said, we are multidimensional but business has one measure- profit. Don't sell yourself short by identifying too much with the current institution of business - it is not only unidimensional, it is flawed. "Poverty is an artificial imposition of the system." Can you change the system? How about a new kind of business with a new kind of metric? "We can easily reformulate the concept of a businessman to bring him closer to a real human being. In order to take into account the multi-dimensionality of real human being we may assume that there are two distinct sources of happiness in the business world 1) maximizing profit, and 2) achieving some pre-defined social objective. Since there are clear conflicts between the two objectives, the business world will have to be made up of two different kinds of businesses --1) profit-maximizing business, and 2) social business. Specific type of happiness will come from the specific type of business"

Action: Break a big problem into bite sized chunks. "Three basic interventions will make a big difference in the existing system : a) broadening the concept of business by including "social business" into the framework of market place, b) creating inclusive financial and health care services which can reach out to every person on the planet, c) designing appropriate information technology devices, and services for the bottom-most people and making them easily available to them."

Do read the whole speech. His ideas about financial instruments (dow jones for social businesses, partnership with Danone, Intel.. make it all sound not only possible but probable.

Go Grads!

1 comment:

Ghada Kamal said...

regards .