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

Nokia’s strategies have unlocked breakneck innovation that has driven huge success and growth. Even while Nokia was making billions in revenue, they continued to grow organically without major acquisitions.

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.  

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

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?



About the author

Author of Outthink the Competition business strategy keynote speaker and CEO of Outthinker, a strategic innovation firm, Kaihan Krippendorff teaches executives, managers and business owners how to seize opportunities others ignore, unlock innovation, and build strategic thinking skills. Companies such as Microsoft, Citigroup, and Johnson & Johnson have successfully implemented Kaihan’s approach because their executive leadership sees the value of his innovative technique. Kaihan has delivered business strategy keynote speeches for organizations such as Motorola, Schering‐Plough, Colgate‐Palmolive, Fortune Magazine, Harvard Business Review, the Society of Human Resource Managers, the Entrepreneurs Organization, and The Asia Society