When Muhammad Yunus was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006, it was said he was responsible for directly or indirectly lifting 1 billion people out of poverty. Yunus did this by reinventing banking to the poor. He created the concept of village banking, which uses microcredit principles to help women launch new businesses without collateral.
Not only did Yunus reinvent banking to the poor, he reinvented himself. He went from being a professor of economic theory at Chittagong College in Bangladesh to a startup entrepreneur, and eventually, to being the CEO of Grameen Bank.
We suggest that all reinventors must possess 10 powerful attributes if they are to be successful in the most challenging type of change—reinvention of themselves, their teams, or their organizations. We’ll use the Yunus case study as our thread as we walk through the 10 attributes.
1. Reinventors are dissatisfied with the status quo: Research shows that significant change won’t happen without a strong, internal-felt need for change. Yunus experienced deep dissatisfaction one day when looking outside his classroom window and seeing fellow Bangladeshi citizens dying of hunger across the street.
2. Reinventors embrace change: Successful reinventors embrace change and focus on intended benefits. It is a glass-half-full perspective. Yunus never looked back after leaving his academic duties. He walked out of the classroom, never to return.
3. Reinventors challenge outdated and distorted thinking patterns: Big discoveries have always challenged current dogma. Yunus was initially rebuffed by traditional bankers, so he proposed a new working theory: Poor people will pay back loans reliably when held accountable by village peers.
4. Reinventors are proactive: Reinventors act rather than react. They are proactive and move forward in accordance with their values. Yunus first interviewed people in a local village to determine the exact amount of seed money the average villager needed to start a business. This gave him the start to his economic model.
5. Reinventors are visionary: To sustain reinvention requires a compelling vision that continually energizes the reinventor, even during tough times. Yunus envisioned a village banking system in which bureaucratic policies were replaced by locals helping locals become self-sufficient.
6. Reinventors engage their network: To succeed in today’s complex and global business environment requires the help of others. Reinventors cannot do it alone. Yunus found his initial seed capital from a local branch manager who was willing to break with tradition, and who trusted Yunus because of their long-term relationship.
7. Reinventors are tech-savvy: Reinventors use social networking to connect people, opportunities, ideas, and funding. Relying on Stone Age tools is a nonstarter. Yunus leveraged the latest knowhow and did not shy away from embracing new technologies to help achieve his vision of a poverty-free world.
8. Reinventors implement best practices: Some ways of doing things produce better results than others. Reinventors are always in search of best practices. Yunus knew that instilling borrowers with a deep sense of accountability was a best practice in terms of attaining reliable loan repayment.
9. Reinventors are resilient: Reinventors move forward, even after suffering defeat, and do so with confidence and a healthy self-esteem. Yunus exhibited resilience by figuring out a different way to strike a deal with a bank after initially being turned down.
10. Reinventors hold themselves accountable: Reinventors hold themselves accountable to premade performance targets. Yunus created a system of accountability within village banking councils that has contributed to current loan repayment rates being at an incredible 97%.
How do you rate against these 10 attributes? Do you have what it takes to successfully reinvent yourself, your team, or your organization if the need arises?