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Lessons from Sir Fazle Hasan Abed on building high performing Enterprise

Sir Fazle Hasan Abed
Sir Fazle Hasan Abed

Nobody can tell you better on how to build a high performing enterprise from scratch than Sir Fazle Hasan Abed of BRAC. Building a company that works is both art and science. And the process is rigorous, unpredictable and uncertain. You can’t build one overnight. Moreover, there is no golden rule to build one.

The best possible way to learn how to build a high performing global organization is to learn from the experience of successful entrepreneurs. In that sense, I can’t find any better choice than that of Sir Fazle Hasan Abed to learn from. He started Brac in 1972- an unusual time to start. But he managed to keep going and now Brac is the world’s largest non-government development organization. Recently BRAC founder Sir Fazle Hasan Abed spoke to an audience at the World Affairs Council of Northern California, as part of a series of speaking engagements in American cities with the support from the Asia Foundation.  Here is a snapshot of his talk: 

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Innovate, but innovate frugally.

BRAC is renowned for creating low-cost, high-impact solutions.

“Frugal innovation, we call it – innovation which doesn’t cost very much, but which is very effective".

Scale up for maximum impact.

The problem of poverty is too urgent too stay small. Be effective, be efficient – and then scale up, as BRAC has done massively.

Most programs remain small and beautiful and never impactful”. “When you have millions of people in poverty, you can’t remain small and beautiful. You have to be effective and large, even if large means ugly – and I don’t really think large necessarily means ugly." He said he found that company to be highly efficient rather than large and ugly. “I would urge that solutions be scaled up to cover as many people as possible”.

Learn continuously.

Find new ways of responding to the needs of the people you serve”, and always remain a “learning organization."

Innovate frugally, scale up, and remain a learning organization.

Ruhul Kader is a Dhaka-based writer, researcher, and entrepreneur. He is also the co-founder and CEO of Future Startup and the author of Rethinking Failure: A short guide to living an entrepreneurial life. He writes about entrepreneurship, business, strategy, technology, and culture. He can be reached at [email protected]

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