Do as Little as Possible for as Many as Possible
In the spirit of celebrating excellence and shining a bright light on people who are making
positive and lasting contributions in the world, its fitting that we focus on Muhammad Yunus,
the recipient of the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize.
Yunus pioneered the concept of microcredit - lending money to people so poor no one else
would even consider them for a loan.
He created the non-traditional banking model in 1976 by lending $27 to a group of 42 bamboo
weavers in Bangladesh.
That’s all they needed to get them away from loan sharks. They used the money to grow their
enterprise - and paid back with interest every penny they owed.
Through the years, Yunus has lent five-point-six million dollars to more than 7 million people.
Loan amounts have averaged about $130.
I’m drawn to the story on two levels:
First, Muhammad Yunus has made a difference in people’s lives. He has seen and filled a very
real need. Many millions of people have benefitted from his unusual philanthropy. His story
makes me feel good and inspires me to do good.
But it’s the unusual solution to a seemingly impossible situation that has me coming back to the
story, over and over again. I can’t help but admire his unique approach:
When faced with a problem, do as little as possible to create a solution.
Instead of throwing millions of dollars at a “poverty relief plan” in Bangladesh, he loaned a
small group of people the exact amount they needed to solve their problem.
No cumbersome bureaucracy or structure to contribute complexity - just a simple solution. We
are often tempted to do more than is necessary.
Leonardo daVinci said - Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.
Perhaps we’re afraid to offer simple solutions because doing so makes us look less intelligent.
We are fearful that someone will accuse us of not understanding the “vastness” of the
But I’m going to suggest that those who offer layer upon layer of complicated answers, may not
understand the essential question.
Here’s an assignment for you, your family, and your associates:
1. Relate to them the story of Muhammad Yunus.
2. Identify a challenging problem that exists in your life or business right now.
3. Then take some time to consider an elegant and simple solution. Do as little
as possible to create a solution.
Simplicity doesn’t just happen on its own. In fact, without conscious, sustained effort focused
on simplicity, the opposite - increased complexity - is almost certain to manifest itself.
Over the next few days I’ll be sharing a number of thoughts and blog posts for you to enjoy.
In the meantime, please give me your thoughts on this post and how you can do as little as
possible to solve big problems in your life as well as in society.
Who knows, you may be able to come up with a life changing solution!