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There’s no big idea.

’m on my way home. Sitting in the back of an Uber that is one of a few thousand criss-crossing this beautifully crazy metropolis called Lagos state. The start-up, if we can still call it that, has created many jobs for men and women in Nigeria. Uber’s model here allows for partners to own cars, have drivers manage them, and split the revenue; everyone is happy.

‘Uber is big, sir. It has helped me and many people in Nigeria.’

I’m contemplating what approach to take on a new marketing campaign for Nigeria’s #1 payments company, Paga. They serve millions of Nigerians: men and women making payments that also criss-cross the country and make life possible for all. They say, Paga exists to enable you achieve all the little things that make a difference in your everyday life. So when you think payments, think Paga.

‘This campaign needs to be big.’

I’m a growth strategist. I’m constantly thinking up new ways to leverage advertising, branding and digital to enable businesses to grow in revenue and in impact. Too many times, I’ve hindered my own creativity by trying to have ‘the Big Idea’ from the very start of my ideation process. It’s like I want to birth the idea with all the bells and whistles, at its full potential, with everyone loving it and buying into it. I see the outcome of many good ideas daily. I want my idea fully successful in my head. I’m not alone with this thinking.

I have studied the growth of many businesses, new and old.
I tend to focus on what the core idea of the business was at the start, is now and how that core idea has grown, bringing success.
In some cases, the core idea stays fixed, but the methods of execution grow – breadth. In other cases, there’s one main process of execution and the business focuses and gains depth.
There’s no right or wrong way, just different ways.

The one thing that always amazes me about the success stories from idea to mass success is this – I believe that there is absolutely no way that the creators at the point of having the idea would have been able to envisage how successful their ideas would be in reach and impact.
A tried-and-tested business model might help forecast earnings.
Mimicking certain aspects of another fruitful business would give you hope of also making it big.
Even in advertising, the Big Idea, when presented to the client, is never a sure winner.
And if you do get it past the client, that still doesn’t guarantee it will be a hit when it goes public.

In the 1880s, Herman Hollerith had an idea. He figured out a clever way for using punchcards to measure and collate data. He helped achieve the US census in less than half the time it had taken them in previous years. That idea gave birth to what is today known as IBM.

Uber founders had an idea.
They automated taxi hailing.
That idea today has given Musa, Dare and many other drivers I’ve gotten to know personally, with a fulfilling job and income.
In turn this helps better the society and encourage new businesses built on the Uber model.

Paga founders had an idea.
Paying daily bills without cash.
That idea today has given rise to thousands of entrepreneurs and strengthened the financial services sector in Nigeria.
It means small businesses are able to collect payments digitally and grow their businesses without incurring the high costs of doing business; Mama Ida can guarantee when and how she will get payment for her goods which she sold to a customer in a town six hours away.

The consistent theme with these ideas is that they required people to need, know and love them for them to become big.
The founders sowed the ideas.
Testing, modelling and marketing helped water the ideas.
People, connecting with the refined ideas, helped them blossom and grow.

There is no Big Idea.
There is only ever a small, lonely, humble and hopeful idea.
It’s people – well engaged and truly catered to – who make it big.

Daniel Oparison, Oludasile ti D’mastermind


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