In the parable of the talents in the Bible, a master, leaving for a long journey, gives his three servants talents.
The first one was given five, the second two and the third one talent. The first two recipients traded with their talents and doubled their value, and the servant who received one talent buried it in the ground.
This story is applicable to nations, organisations and individuals.
Let us look at the talents as resources. The one-talent groups despise what little they have. One-talent nations have an appetite for things that they do not produce. They are dumping grounds for all things made in five- and two-talent nations.
It is not that one-talent nations don’t have resources. It’s just that armies from five-talent nations overran the one-talent nations with their weapons and colonised them.
One-talent nations resorted to benchmarking to copy rather than use their uniqueness to surpass and lead the way. As long as you are copying, you stay behind. When a two- or five-talent nation goes benchmarking, it is with the intent to become better. So, when Dubai finds out the height of the tallest building in the world, it is not interested in copying it but in beating the record.
One-talent nations have their resources buried in the ground, while five-talent nations are using their resources to enrich their people. One-talent nations have crude oil in the ground but still import petroleum products. One-talent nations have not developed the ability and infrastructure to make the best of what they have, and so the presence of the resources makes no difference in the lives of their citizens.
When the servant with one talent was asked what he did with the it, he launched into a tirade, telling the master off for being wicked.
This is classic one-talent nation behaviour. They blame everyone except themselves for their predicament, even though they have not developed their own resources. What they see as a problem is that five-talent nations came over more than a hundred years ago with superior weapons to take over their land. They blame these intruders for their stagnation and backwardness, not acknowledging that there are other nations that suffered the same predicament and have now become five-talent countries.
TALENTS AND EXCUSES
These characteristics are also found in organisations. Many organisations have great talent but don’t invest in it. They bury these powerful human resources in the “ground” and when such people leave and go to other organisations and begin to shine, they wonder what happened.
The same is true of individuals. Think of the number of times you had an idea and did nothing about it and then a short while later you hear that someone has done something along the same lines and it becomes a breakaway success.
On seeing this, you tell your friends that you were the first to think about it, and in classic one-talent style you are full of excuses as to why you did not execute it. Instead, you blame those you believe did not help you.
Now that we have established that one-talent nations do not fully harness their natural resources, what happens when they get donor funding from five-talent countries? Will things be any better?
Wale Akinyemi is the chief transformation officer at PowerTalks