Use A Multi-front Battle To Beat The Competition: Nokia Is Everywhere

Earlier this
week, I started my review
of Nokia. The company markets phones in the U.S., Europe
and beyond that are easy to use but also have some unique functions. These
phones allow users to switch between home and work settings. In the work
setting, a person’s calendar is filled with conference calls and the address
book has colleagues for contacts. But when the office door closes, the user has
the opportunity to switch the setting to home. This setting has a calendar of
dinner parties and children’s recitals, and the contacts are family and


Taneli Ruda, one of Nokia’s top strategists, admits that this feature is quite simple and competitors will find no great barrier
to duplicating it if they choose.

But what
makes this feature strategically valuable is not that Nokia has it, but rather
from where Nokia got it: rural India. You see, in poorer parts of the world,
many people cannot afford to own their own cell phones. Instead, they share
phones with friends.

By following
their Indian customers closely, Nokia observed this practice early and adapted.
It began producing phones that maintained multiple identities to facilitate
phone sharing. It works like this – when I want to use my shared phone, I
simply set it to “Kaihan Krippendorff” and the phone transforms, offering me all
of my phone numbers, not yours.


successfully launching this technology, Nokia asked, “How can we use this in
other places?” So they took a technology designed for the developing world and
introduced into the developed one. Instead of switching between phone users, we
switch between our home and work lives.

This is a nice example of pattern #7
at work: force your competitors onto a two-front battle.

Just as
lions hunt in pairs to fluster their opponents, great innovators use one
business to provide coverage for another and thereby fluster our efforts to
compete head on.


We have at
least 20 examples of this. Honda, for example, uses a capability in engine
building to make cars, motorcycles, and even lawnmowers. Disney uses one
character to make a movie, video game, ice skating show, and theater
production. Virgin uses one brand to sell cola, air travel, music, and bridal

Nokia use
insights drawn from India, China, Latin America, and Europe to complicate
things for its competitors. You can’t compete with Nokia without competing across
the globe.

But you can use lessons from Nokia to
apply to your own business. Ask yourself the following questions:


1.      Can I use my current business to produce something new or offer a
different service?

2.  What is my competitor not
doing, and can I use that to force it onto a multi-front battle?


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