Nokia keeps doing its analysis and strategic planning and ending up with answers that suggest “stay the course” or “do more of the same”.
It reminds me of GM, circa 2004, and how they kept building big-arse cars the size of boats and then were “surprised” by the market wanting small cars. By 2008, they had reached epic proportions of Failure.
But it was entirely predictable.
And today, Reuters has an article that says the Nokia Board supports the current strategy and will stay the course. Of course they will. They have no evidence to suggest they should change. That evidence will show up in 2-3 years because it needs to be in their rear-view window before they can look at it in their models, and then get on it.
You see, what Nokia or GM is missing is a forward-looking stance in their market creation activities. Every Nokia executive I’ve met generally has a “prove it to me” view of the world. Meaning, if you can prove the point in an excel spreadsheet and I can analytically test that thinking enough to validate the direction, then we’re golden.
That model does not value insights that are forward looking, and they don’t understand the value of pilots to prove out key points. It has to be “real” (i.e. prove-able) before it can be pursued.
When has the future ever been analytically-proven before it is put into existence?
Touch screens were well designed long before Apple created a valid UI that maximized touch-screens, and then everyone (HTC, Moto, Nokia) who could have done the same suddenly came up with a ‘me-too’ strategy.
It’s not that they are losers; it’s that these leaders have been trained to see the world through an analytically-rich framework. Beautiful for planning and allocating resources to existing businesses; terrible for creating the next businesses.
The real difference between Apple and Nokia is how they think. It’s what Roger Martin (of Opposable Minds, now of Design Thinking books), Dean at Rotman, calls the difference of analytical thinking vs. intuitive thinking.
Analytic thinking leads to reliability, consistency. Intuitive thinking is focused on validity — should we build it. Apple’s leaders clearly value intuitive thinkers as embodied by its most notable thinker, Steve J, and they get it right most of the time. I am betting they allow products to be announced months before release so they can use pre-orders to size forecasts and make sure they don’t over build.
In other words, I bet that Apple uses analytic thinking to reduce risk of inventory management and use intuitive thinking to design and build new products.
If Nokia is going to change, they need to change their very mindset to innovation. They need to add the leadership skills that value insight and creativity. They need to be able to ask and answer:
- What could we build to meet potential or latent requirements? Who is being under-served and how? Who on our team could be assembled to learn and think intuitively on that? (Because great ideas don’t have to come from the top; they can come from anywhere in the business.)
- How could we learn more about that? What could be pilots we could run? How could we make learning about it important to our business?
- How could we measure success (because it won’t be about units) so it gives us more insights of what next to pilot? How do we make sure we don’t put the same burden onto new businesses as we do our existing, proven ones?
Nokia, please don’t wait until the data proves that you are off-base. Your shareholders showed up yesterday to help you see that you need to have a different mindset. They are not hurting you; they are helping you see that your current leadership and thinking skills are deficient. They want to help you open your eyes to a new mindset. Please listen to them before it proves itself out.
Because it will. That much is valid, even from here. If you were to draw on more of your intuitive skills within your company and let that collaborative work take you forward, you could be so much bigger and better. Perhaps then you could win markets you rightly have identified (tablets anyone?).
And for all the rest of us in organisations, the message is this: are you balancing the type of thinking you need for the kind of decisions you are making? Company-wide strategy and product-level decisions of what we should build needs intuitive thinking (often backed by small quick iterations and pilots) because you are creating and winning markets that (ideally) don’t yet exist.
And board members, please stop promoting the “prove it to me” guys into the C-Suite unless you are ready to rest on < 3-5% growth and letting other companies than yours, create markets.
The VC community gets this right by letting intuitively clear thinkers lead. If only we could mesh that with public company mindsets so we could have the best of both.
Nilofer Merchant is CEO and Chief Strategist of Rubicon Consulting. She’s also the author of “The New How.” She has honed her unique, collaborative approach to solving tough problems while working with and for companies like Adobe, Apple, Nokia, HP and others. This post was originally published on her blog, and it is re-published here with permission.
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