In 2008, Nokia owned over half of the global smartphone market. Four years later, the company was reeling from Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Android operating system. Its value had dropped more than 90 percent and bankruptcy seemed possible. That was the situation in 2012 when Siilasmaa became chairman. He then led Nokia’s transformation into the second-largest player in the global wireless infrastructure market today; during that time the enterprise value increased 20x.
Risto and I discussed radical reinvention from ailing devices company to global wireless infrastructure market leader, his advice for companies facing colossal change. Two of Siilasmaa’s most important takeaways were to practice what he calls ‘paranoid optimism’ and to think in alternatives.
He shared, “If you are paranoid enough to anticipate all of the possible worst-case scenarios, you can prepare for all of the possible worst-case scenarios. Because you’ve thought of how to adapt to and even prevent them, you can afford to be optimistic. When a leader sincerely radiates optimism, this creates a dynamic culture open to new ideas. But it’s not enough for leaders to think in alternatives. You need to bake this into your culture. Making a habit of coming up with different scenarios of successes and failures — and ways to influence the outcomes — not only helps you lead a massive turnaround, but may even prevent you from getting into a situation where radical reinvention is necessary in the first place.”
If you’d like to read more about the specifics of the turnaround, he recently wrote the book which I read in one sitting and thought was a riveting case study, TRANSFORMING NOKIA.