Innovation Is Rooted In Discontent: Nokia Has Evolved Over 125 Years

To grow nearly 10 times in 10 years is impressive, but not entirely unheard of. Start with a sufficiently low base or launch an acquisition campaign and almost anyone can do it. Indeed, I’ve bumped into several companies that have.

But to drive such growth when you are already collecting billions in revenue – and to do it organically without major acquisitions – is something different, something remarkable. Almost no company has done it. But Nokia has.

I got a chance to sit down with Taneli Ruda, one of Nokia’s top strategists. Taneli helps maintain Nokia’s strategic agenda and leads a team charged with ensuring Nokia’s strategic plans align with the company’s overall priorities. He gave a peek into how Nokia has unlocked such breakneck innovation and consistently outmaneuvered the competition.

Be ahead of the curve

The easy answer to Nokia’s growth is that the company successfully identified the next battleground. There was a time when Nokia made tires, produced rubber, owned forests, and fabricated paper goods. It had, over its hundred or so years of evolution, become an unfocused conglomerate.

This unaligned strategy eventually caught up with the Finnish firm. The company’s financial foundation weakened severely, and its CEO committed suicide.  

Great innovations’ blooms are always rooted in deep discontent. And so Nokia’s troubles laid the foundation for real change.

The company realized it could not survive covering so many battlegrounds, so it felt forced to look for the next one. It recognized that the deregulation and privatization of Europe’s telecom market would create a major opportunity, so it shed its rubber plants and paper mills and invested with focused determination on telecommunications.

The bet paid off. Mobile phones have grown faster and for longer than most experts imagined. And Nokia, being one of the first with a determinate stake in that ground, has grown with it.

Taneli said, "If you really want to get to hyper growth, then you need to be ahead of the curve for identifying trends."

This is pattern #22: move early to the next battleground.

Over 30 percent of the most competitive companies of the decade triggered their breakthroughs in part with this same pattern. We all know we should be thinking about the next battleground, but rarely take a pause to truly consider it.

So stop now and ask yourself: forgetting your current battle, where is the next battleground and what can you do today to begin positioning yourself there?

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