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Rescuing Nokia – will a radical plan help the giant survive and thrive once more?

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It’s common knowledge by now that all is not happy in the Nokia camp. Profits continue to collapse, their friends are deserting them and for all the bravado of their executives it really looks as though the Finnish colossus has lost its way completely.

As a long time fan of the company and its products, I’ve been saddened to see the decline of this once mighty company, a company which really defined the mobile phone business for much of the world, and one which still holds a massive chunk of the global handset business.

But the fact is the company is being out-fought and out-gunned by the twin barrels of the Far Eastern conglomerates like Samsung, and the fashionable market savvy of companies like HTC and Apple. And it doesn’t look like the company has a clue what to do to come out of the doldrums.

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In many ways it’s a classic example of the innovators dilemma, a large company unable to match the pace and depth of disruptive technologies, in this case the application driven data terminals called smartphones. But in reality it’s probably not quite that simple.

A new book by ex Nokia executive Juhani Risku has now set out a blueprint by which he believes the company can turn its fortunes around. The title of the book is Uusi Nokia (New Nokia – the Manuscript) and it details changes that can and should be made to the company’s processes and management, which the veteran manager says will revitalise the creativity and productivity of a moribund middle management layer which has been promoted beyond its level of competence.

The book is making waves in Finland, where Nokia is more than a national treasure and almost a religion, but of course that doesn’t mean the company will listen and act. As an outsider, it’s clear to me that Nokia’s main problem is inertia. It’s simply not keeping up with the ultra rapid developments in the mobile space, and rather like Sony back in the 90s, it is arrogant enough to think it can continue on its own track and drive its own brand of innovation instead of adopting market accepted practices.

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Sony learned quickly that this was an expensive and futile exercise, Nokia is now learning the same. As Risku’s book points out, Nokia appears to have lost the ability to deliver cool ground breaking products to the market which people want to own. For the past few years, the company has seemed to be stuck in catch up mode (recognise that syndrome Microsoft?), talking too long to produce products which are too bland/me-too/uninspiring to grab the public’s imagination.

Sure Apple has the marketing nous and an adoring fan base to latch on to every word, but there’s more to it than that. Nokia products nowadays are just boring, where before they used to be exciting. It’s a real shame, and we can only hope that the company will heed the warnings of their version of the ‘peanut butter manifesto‘ and take action before it’s too late.

The Finnish people are some of the most resourceful and innovative in the world, it remains to be seen if the company can tap into those qualities and return to glory.

Nigel is the managing editor of the Red Ferret, as well as a freelance columnist for the Sunday Times newspaper in London. Loves tech and fancies himself as a bit of a futurist, but then don’t we all?

Nigel – who has written posts on The Red Ferret Journal.


1 Comment

  • The other thing they really need to do is stop making so many damn different types of handsets. If you haven't checked their website in the last 4 weeks your information is out of date, and seriously, who wants to trawl though 900 very slightly different phones to find the one you need. Then, because there are so many different types of phones, keeping their firmware usable when they all run slightly different variations requires huge resources.

    Product spam is so 3 years ago. Tighten up the product line to maybe 10 phones Nokia and I'll consider buying your stuff again. As it is, the N82 is the last phone of yours I'll ever buy.

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