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Nokia’s legacy is more than history

Hundreds of alumni gathered to the School of Business for a seminar on a new book by Yves Doz.

Catching up with colleagues and friends.

For his book,  Yves Doz, who works as a professor of strategic management at INSEAD, and who has long worked together with the School of Business, interviewed more than 20 top executives at Nokia. In addition, he waded through a massive amount of background material. The resulting work - Ringtone: Exploring the Rise and Fall of Nokia in Mobile Phones (Oxford University Press, 2017) is an analytic description of the incredible rise of Nokia's mobile phone operation, the difficulties that followed its long success, and finally its death.

The book moves forward chronologically, but at the end of each chapter Doz analyses the achievements and mistakes of the period from the points of view of four axes - cognition, organisation, relations, and emotions.

Juha Äkräs, Yves Doz and Rebecca Piekkari.

'Nokia understood that it should go into consumer business already when its competitors Motorola and Ericsson were developing products for the military and the police', Yves Doz observed, and pointed out that strategic challenges are often difficult to identify in time. The year 2007 was the best year for Nokia's mobile phone operations - and just three years later it was already in serious trouble.

'Strategy problems are a little bit like the risk factors for a heart attack: they can be asymptomatic for a long time and then, finally, the results can prove to be truly radical.'

Professor Rebecca Piekkari emphasised that it is no coincidence that the seminar was organised shortly before the 100th anniversary celebrations of Finnish independence. Nokia's role in Finland's development has been massive, and it remains strong.

'I recently spoke to an ex-Nokia person who graduated from here. He told that never before – and never after – he had been given such responsible tasks and fascinating jobs, and always on a global scale. Those years were transformative for him and his career.'

Juha Äkräs, who long worked as Nokia's Executive Vice President of Human Resources, and who currently is Executive Chairman of the Board of Hintsa Performance and serves as an Aalto University Executive in Residence, emphasised that Nokia's mobile phone unit was a completely unique work place.

'I am also in a Facebook group of more than 20,000 former employees of the unit from around the world. Whenever we meet with our former colleagues, the conversation always turns to the wonderful things that we managed to do.

Eero Vaara.

Professor Eero Vaara praised Yves Doz for his deep analysis of the Nokia story.
'We always need to be careful when we talk about success and failure - things are rarely that black and white.'                   

Heli Helanummi-Cole.

Most of the companies set up by Nokia people have remained relatively small. Heli Helanummi-Cole who is completing a doctoral dissertation in Oxford, pondered how it might be possible to move from this kind of 'camp fire entrepreneurship' to 'fireworks entrepreneurship'. The importance of entrepreneur training and platform entrepreneurship is growing constantly.
'And, as Gandhi said, your belief become your destiny.'

Several former Nokia executives took part in the seminar. Yves Doz presented Jorma Ollila with one of his books fresh off the press.

Text Minna Hölttä, photos Mikko Raskinen.

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