Muhammad Yunus is the founder of the Grameen Bank. The microfinance organisation has over 8 million borrowers, 97% of whom are women.
He won the Nobel Peace prize in 2006, and in his acceptance speech, he said something which caught my imagination;
“To me poor people are like bonsai trees. When you plant the best seed of the tallest tree in a flower-pot, you get a replica of the tallest tree, only inches tall. There is nothing wrong with the seed you planted, only the soil-base that is too inadequate. Poor people are bonsai people. There is nothing wrong in their seeds. Simply, society never gave them the base to grow on. All it needs to get the poor people out of poverty for us to create an enabling environment for them. Once the poor can unleash their energy and creativity, poverty will disappear very quickly.”
I was reminded of his words this week, thinking not about people but about companies.
Put bluntly, how do we avoid becoming Bonsai Britain?
Now, there is absolutely nothing wrong with the idea that small is beautiful. But what about the companies which have massive ambitions for growth, yet struggle. Have they potted themselves in the wrong place? Can the richness of the soil be increased? How do you go from dead wood to Redwood?
There is a literal, geographical answer to this, which I’m sure will be discussed during next month’s WebMission to San Francisco.
Maybe the antidote to Bonsai Britain is a bit more sophisticated.
How would you increase the richness of the soil base? Three ideas:
- Global links: Making international trade clearer and easier than ever.
- Peer-to-peer Networks: Unlocking connections to business partners, suppliers, investors and customers.
- Access to Mentors: Uncovering those who have been there before and are prepared to pass on their lessons.
Whatever the other factors, Grameen is an inspiration, because it reminds us that amazing things can be started from small beginnings. On that theme, I have some exciting Tenner news which I can share next week…
Until then, what do you think about Bonsai Britain? Silly, or a cause for concern? And what would you do to change things?