Ann Mei Chang is the USAID Chief Innovation Office. I’ve vetted my fair share of business cases (based on impact, ROI, market potential, team engagement etc.) Ann Mei’s rules for investment is an interesting shift that makes a lot of sense.
- Make catalytic investments. Prove the concept, expand the horizon, show people not just that it can be done, but how to replicate the results. I often tell people that once you know something CAN be done, you can figure out how to do it. The most important thing is to ask the question. 98% of all questions ever conceived by human beings can be answered by Google. (Ok, I just made that up but one day that actually will be a modest estimation.) Voltaire suggested that we judge a people by their questions and not their answers. The point is, smart investments unlock human inspiration and potential which has proven to be the single most powerful force on earth.
- Get Local. Don’t be afraid to get in the weeds, to connect with people, to get your hands dirty. I think this is especially important when you consider that not only are these folks as customers/client, they are also a profound source of insights and innovations.
- Keep innovating. Learning, growing and don’t settle for normal returns.