Tag: innovation

Ralf HallerRalf Haller February 13, 2011

“Europe cannot do high-tech” and other tales from the NOKIA story

Europa kann kein High-Tech, glauben Investoren, das h├Ątten die vergangenen Jahre gezeigt.

writes the FAZ about the Nokia “merger” with Microsoft is what analysts say. Since the German newspaper FAZ does not publish comments in case you criticize anything they write ( I tried 3-4 times and they never published my comments :-) ) I write a little bit about this here. If that simplified statement would be true question is will that deficiency influence other non-high-tech industries sooner or later as well when these industries will become more competitive, faster moving and overall less predictable? I think so.

“Nokia is the victim of its own success” is another tale people tell and you can read about in the FAZ article. I don’t think that describes either the situation. What really has happened is that Nokia like many Western European companies are trapped in a state somewhere in between a very hierarchical (Apple, yes, even if it does not appear from the outside), process-oriented and a very open (Google) environment. As it turns out this state is inferior to these two other setups leading to long decision-making and at the end not better but only soso products coming out late even. It is easier to focus on process optimization and live the illusion that this would be all that is needed to be successful. Process optimization is something anybody can do nowadays and is doing (also Chinese firms). Being able to move fast and use the input of many smart people to find new ideas and implement these ideas first in the market is more difficult to do though also because it requires management that understands this and supports such environments. Which company can truly say that they are in a position to quickly collect the accumulated ideas from employees, customers and partners? Most companies still have the idea box based on false principles that originated from 1880. Putting an idea box into a web portal does not make it a more effective though and changes anything. It remains an unused “tool”.

I tried to sell to NOKIA a few times technology and visited them in Espoo. What I experienced there was an environment where people were scared to take new approaches and rather did not pursue new ideas at all. Also I always had the feeling there is a Finnish group of guys that hardly communicate with each other and even have a harder time to communicate to outsiders – like myself.

To me the Nokia case should be a last warning for many many complacent other companies showing them that things will turn bad for them quickly too if they only focus on process optimization and don’t think in idea and inovation management.

What happens to Nokia will now be determined in the next 2 years or so. I think they have a chance even if this first step was maybe not something the majority of bloggers and pundits consider as a smart move. Once again a few people were asked in Nokia (the new CEO and his peers) and made a decision. When is Nokia starting to ask its employees, customers and partners what it would take to change and be successful again? I hope for them they do that finally NOW.

BTW, I think also the FAZ should change their attitudes and let people voice their thoughts freely and comment on their site even if these thoughts are not in line with their content. This would help them write better articles that more people read, can take serious and probably more people are willing to pay for too.