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Tackling the corporate bureaucracy

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Elop's biggest challenge is that Nokia is more than capable of restoring its fortunes. This was pointed out by former Nokia executive Junhani Risku in his recent book on the company, which Nokia insiders and others analysed here. Nokia still has the clever designers and boffins to bring innovations to market. What the CEO needs to do is cut through huge layers of corporate bureaucracy to allow this innovation to flourish. And since Nokia is something of a national treasure, this isn't going to be easy. As Nokia itself discovered when taking over Siemens, making redundancies is a huge challenge in the EU.

Can Nokia branch out?

The other question is whether the CEO can create new markets. Six years ago I suggested that there were only two interesting consumer electronics companies on the planet - one was Sony, and the other Nokia. Both had the three things you need to set new standards - R&D, the design expertise to make stuff usable, and the global logistics and distribution to get the stuff onto the shelves. Nokia brought a uniquely European perspective.

Today I have a virtual desk piled high with Nokia consumer research, reports from expensive futurologists which have been coalesced into vision statement brochures, and the most comprehensive set of marketing analysis ever undertaken by one company. Alongside these are scores of MBA business papers on management theory, again funded by Nokia. None of this bumph has helped where it matters, and both Sony and Nokia have been eclipsed by Apple, which singularly ignored huge areas of consumer electronics, particularly games consoles, by doing for mobile data devices what Nokia did to GSM phones in the 1990s.

This week I reviewed an intriguing Nokia home entertainment device that was killed at birth, and sold around 200 units - the Home Music internet radio. It's actually quite good - and shows what Nokia can turn its hand to. So why was aren't there dozens of these Nokia initiatives on the shelf of my local Dixons? I'm not sure who pulled the trigger on this, but the stillborn HD-1 seemed to send out a message to the rest of Nokia: don't try anything risky.

When it comes creating new markets, you need risk-taking leadership with instinct; here, Elop is a complete blank slate. He'll be surrounded by decades of Nokia experience on the Group Executive Board, and may well be smothered by the corporate bureaucracy that he needs to dismantle. I hope not. We'll just have to wait and see. ®

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