Jorma Ollila (pictured above, orange tie) isn’t a name that’s familiar to most folks, but it should be. He was Nokia’s CEO between 1992 and 2006, otherwise known as the years when a small Finnish company known for making cables transformed itself into the world’s largest mobile phone maker. Over the weekend he gave an interview to YLE, Finland’s version of the BBC, and said this when asked about why the company is in the position they’re in today:
“It mostly began with the weakness of our software platform capabilities and the fact that it was not a European strength. We identified this ten years ago, towards the end of the 90s, at the beginning of 2000, that this should become Nokia’s strength, but we were not able to build it. Something that would have exploded the normal, safe way of thinking, a kind of violent shake-up, that would have woken up the entire organization ten years ago.”
There’s one day I’ll never forget at Nokia. One of the older employees sat me down and told me about his vision for the future of mobile. To say that the words coming out of his mouth were prophetic would be an understatement. He then showed me a PowerPoint presentation that he made back in 2001/2002 with the exact same concepts he told me during our conversation back in 2008. It was then that I realized that something was wrong. I’m paraphrasing here, but he said something to this tune:
“The feature phone guys are responsible for keeping this company alive. Anyone in this company who wants to deviate from the idea that we should worship the dumb phone guys will be ignored and put to work on a project that’ll never leave the planning stage.”
What breaks my heart is that Nokia is (was?) filled with talented people, but they’re incredibly mismanaged. All of my former colleagues, every last one of them, have left the company. They cite various reasons, but the consensus is that they don’t to be aboard a sinking ship.