The Don’t Bother Trilogy: If you don’t understand the problem you’ve set out to solve from your customers’ perspective, if your product or service won’t dramatically increase their income, and if you can’t sell 100 million of them, don’t bother.
Let’s be clear: the Don’t Bother Trilogy, featured in The Business Solution to Poverty, is not a course of action urged on everyone engaged in economic development everywhere, nor is it even intended to guide every market-based approach to addressing the problems of poverty. It’s based on the sad reality that more people live in poverty today than the total population of the planet when the fight against global poverty began in 1950. To change this picture on a global scale — “to make a dent in the universe,” as Steve Jobs put it — any new effort must take a dramatically different approach than what has been tried in the past: it must be designed to go to scale from the outset, it must be market-based (to ensure sustainability through profits), it must help poor people increase what they earn from farms or businesses, and it must begin by spending a great deal of time talking to people at the grassroots rather than rely on plans and proposals developed by “experts.”
None of this is to say that other efforts are worthless. Activities undertaken by governments, multilateral institutions, philanthropists, and grassroots activists can all play valuable roles, singly or in combination. However, if they’re simply doing what their predecessors have so frequently done in the past, without appreciable impact, it may be time for them to try something new.
Paul Polak and Mal Warwick’s award-winning book, The Business Solution to Poverty, highlights 20 “takeaways” that encapsulate much of the book’s essence. Today we have featured the sixth of those takeaways. Future posts will include others.