My first mobile was not a Nokia, but my second and following ones were all Finnish. Until I realized, with an N97 mini in my hand, that it belonged to a different era. I then moved to Android.
When some days ago Microsoft announced the acquisition of the mobile division of Nokia, I felt inspired to write this post. A post about what organizations –and human beings in general- can learn from this story.
What happened to a company created in 1865 as a paper mill, that in 2007 sold the 63% of world´s mobile phones, to meet such a situation? Nokia´s website explains in the about us part “The Nokia story”. Its first paragraph is titled “Always adapting”:
Over the past 150 years, Nokia has evolved from a riverside paper mill in south-western Finland to a global telecommunications leader connecting over 1.3 billion people. During that time, we’ve made rubber boots and car tyres. We’ve generated electricity. We’ve even manufactured TVs. Changing with the times, disrupting the status quo – it’s what we’ve always done. And we fully intend to keep doing it.
No one can discuss how well the Finnish company was able to adapt and evolve, being ahead of its time and jump to new markets until something failed. Or, better said, somebody failed. The things did not fail. It was the ability of the persons in charge to foresee and understand the needs of the customers what failed.
My last Nokia mobile was an excellent machine: solid, elegant, reasonably sized, good feeling when touching it, lasting battery, very well thought out slide design and the best keyboard I have ever used in a mobile. Only the processor (the brain) was really insufficient. The combination of a poor thinking capability, a confusing interface, an outdated operating system and a limited availability of apps just killed the phone… and the brand. When my teen daughter has a problem with her own mobile, she prefers to be without it rather than using the stone but just for listening music. No Whatsapp, no Tuenti, no social. Better alone than with a bad company.
The innovation ability should be the company´s management top qualification. Not necessarily as new idea developers, but as the persons responsible of creating and actively support a fresh atmosphere within the company that invites new thoughts. Where those who have a good project or approach can freely present and develop it for the company´s benefit. Innovative and market breaker products and services are great, but they are just a consequence of what really matters. And this is the Management´s skill at steering the company.
So what can we learn from Nokia´s story for our organization?
- A good hardware is OK but it can be ruined by a bad software. A hotel can have impressive facilities but if management directions are wrong and the staff´s attitude is inadequate the business is getting close to its end.
- The know-how resides in the people, not in the procedure manuals. As soon as they are written they need to be updated to avoid becoming a deadly constraint for new work flows, ideas or operations. Keep people committed to the company by giving them some sense of ownership inviting them to present their new ideas.
- A hundred eyes can see more and better than just two or four. Only arrogant and/or stubborn executives can close their eyes and ears to what their teams think. I simply cannot believe that nobody at Nokia saw the raise of the smartphones and the new ways they were being used by millions of customers.
- Pilot students are told to fly the plane inside (checking the instruments) AND outside (through the windows, where real life takes place). The same with the managers: they need to get out, breathe deeply, drop the corporate thinking for a while and open the mind to understand what´s up in their customer´s life. And what competitors are doing.
A bad coffee can be appreciated by a smiling waiter with professional manners. The best Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee cup can be found expensive and bad if rudely delivered. The difference is the person.
The person´s attitude is the magic wand for a better business, a better life and a better society.