Design Lesson from Sokoto

Design Lesson from Sokoto

I like visiting Sokoto. For all the states in northern Nigeria, it is the most hospitable. Despite being the seat of caliphate, the people are largely welcoming. I am yet to clearly understand why Sokoto is that unique. But looking at some institutions, there is a clue.

In one of the hotels I stay, I have noticed that they named the buildings after founding Nigerian statesmen. Typically, they always find space for me in Nnamdi Azikiwe building.  Then in front of that building, they have a space, structured for Igbo people to congregate for the nkwobis, etc. But walk down: there is Obafemi Awolowo building with settings suited for the southwest. This is at the heart of Sokoto, and the businessman is bold to go national!

Camel in Sokoto. Sokoto is a hospitable place

I asked the manager how that thinking came. He explained that they wanted to make everyone feel at home. So, in designing the place, they went to the cultural leaders of the major ethnic groups, in Sokoto, to assist in the design and settings.

This is an example of the Nativity Design Construct. If a hotel can do it, banking and fintech could also explore how Yorubas, Igbos, Hausas, etc handle and manage money to architect services that fit.

In my teachings with startups in our advisory business, I have called that Nativity Design Construct. It is a way of looking at business from the angle of the customers by making sure that you deliver solutions and services within the natural nexus of the users, eliminating any possible assimilation friction.

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The one-size-fit-all model has become obsolete, so any business that wishes to survive and continues to be relevant going forward, must learn to pay attention to finer details.

It is no longer tenable to spend all your time in the lab and conference room, and then hatch out and ratchet up products and services for users/consumers you do not understand. If politicians do same and survive, for businesses, the price you pay for your misdemeanour is higher; because opening a wallet is not same as flashing your voters card, no one jokes with the former down here.

The digital platform model innovation has helped to democratise this Nativity Design Construct, making the potential users key players during the design phase of the product development. The hotel owner did not close his eyes and imagined what every tribe would cherish, rather he went out and enquired from the PEOPLE how best to go about it. A big lesson there for our men and women in suits.


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