Ever since Nokia announced their decision to join Microsoft in their smart phone strategy numerous sites and people have been writing about the ups and downs of the agreement. However, most if not all of these people are outside the company. Adam Greenfield is a former Nokia designer who worked at the company for 2 years. Since he left, he hasn’t touched on Nokia in his blog posts, but this changed a few days ago. He wrote a lengthy post on his observations and thoughts about the company.
It’s a fascinating read. Not only for the fact that he has written it as a former employee, but as a designer – a perspective of development Nokia has been publicly questioned to lack when compared to other key players in the industry.
Adam Greenfield goes on to state that the company is full of extremely smart people who work very hard for results, but it is structured wrong and there simply are too many engineers in charge of things while the leadership doesn’t respect design as it should be respected.
The long post completely lacks any criticism towards the employees of Nokia. He states that people are smart and some of the most talented in the world. He does however argue that most of the decisions are made by engineers – which is a wrong background for a company that has seen its business landscape and value requirement change dramatically in the recent years from a manufacturer of devices to a more holistic generator of mobile experiences.
Greenfield argues that Nokia has been very good at shipping low cost products efficiently to every corner of the world. During the Ollila-Kallasvuo transition however, the company failed to realise the importance of the changing function of mobile devices. It wasn’t only used to make phone calls, it became an interface device that help people consume different kinds of content in different ways.
He clarifies his point with an example regarding NFC technology:
When I arrived at Nokia, the folks down the road at NRC were very proud of something they’d ginned up: an NFC-equipped, but otherwise entirely conventional, vending machine. At last!, I thought, here’s a concrete step toward the future of everyday transactions. […]
[…]I was given an NFC phone, and told to tap it against the item I wanted from the vending machine. This is what happened next: the vending machine teeped, and the phone teeped, and six or seven seconds later a notification popped up on its screen. It was an incoming text message, which had been sent by the vending machine at the moment I tapped my phone against it. I had to respond “Y” to this text to complete the transaction. The experience was clumsy and joyless and not in any conceivable way an improvement over pumping coins into the soda machine just the way I did quarters into Defender at the age of twelve.
But perhaps most importantly, he states that the leadership at Nokia has failed to understand their new business environment and the need for respect of design, which has ultimately led to the partnership with Microsoft in the smartphone business.
It’s really a must read for everyone interested in the topic. Not only, because I believe the issues he discussed will have significance in the form of Nokia’s destiny, but also in the fact that it’s a great read for upper management to realise that the current educational books about controlling companies from simply financial perspectives are completely outdated.