Nokia at Helsinki Design Week: Innovation in an enterprise

As part of Helsinki Design Week this year, Nokia spoke about the role innovation plays in Nokia’s present and future. It was exciting to learn how Design Thinking can have a big impact on the whole organisation. In this blog post, I share my favourite takeaways from the talk.


A small design team can make a difference


Would you believe it if I told you that Nokia currently sports a team of 19  in-house designers? At Nokia’s peak, they had over 600. I thought 19 sounded a pretty small number seeing the size of the company, but it goes to show that you don’t necessarily need a huge design team to innovate as long as you’re organised correctly (see my next point about multidisciplinary teams)

Innovate in multidisciplinary teams

With over 110,000 employees globally, innovation could get lost in the organisational structures. However, Nokia have really made an effort to ensure there are no such barriers to innovation. In every innovation project, a multi-disciplinary team is formed from the Design team, Business and Engineers.

The design process starts with a collaboration between the different teams from day one. The Product Development Lifecycle is followed and every stage needs to be agreed by all 3 groups to move forward. As all decisions are discussed within the multidisciplinary group meaning there is not only internal buy-in, but the maximum value from the different skill sets available in the group (think designers meet engineers etc.)

Nokia multi-team

A representation how multidisciplinary teams contribute to innovation

Use the Design Thinking tools that fit your problem

The OZO (a 360-degree camera for creating virtual reality content) design process started with trying to understand what people wanted, then moved onto experiencing and building prototypes. One of the first things that were done were the customer journeys and blueprints. Design Thinking tools were used to tackle the problem from every single perspective you can imagine. The team analysed the opportunities of using such camera and found answers to questions such as what would users use Virtual Reality for? What would users use this camera for? Which helped to design a camera for a market that did not exist at the time.

Nokia Design Thinking Tools

A wall of Design Thinking tools in action

Failure is an integral part of an innovation process

The permission to fail is present in the innovation process at all times. The designers call themselves “trailblazers” who love to fail in a controlled environment. Failing, of course, brings you closer to success, but products that fail can also provide commercial returns.

During the talk, we also learned about OZO, which in the end is no longer being produced, but the IPs that were created during the process are still being used, and are making money for the business.

Anyone can come up with an idea

One of the coolest things about innovation at Nokia was that anyone could come up with an idea. It could come from the design team, business or engineers. To create a culture where everyone can express their creativity really stroke a chord and I can’t wait to see what cutting-edge innovations Nokia will come up with next.

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