Stephen Elop – Ratner or Rainman?

As a rule we steer clear of commenting too much on Nokia stuff (disclosure – they are a client) but we do think the events of the last week are just too big to let slip by.

I’m going to stay out of the Nokia/Microsoft arguments, there are plenty of opinions going around about whether this was a good deal for Nokia or a good deal for Microsoft and so on. I’m simply going to say that having loved the quality of Nokia handsets and the ease and UI of WP7 I can see how such a marriage could work.

Instead I want to think about the decision of the CEO to publish the now infamous ‘Burning Platform’ memo. I don’t believe that Stephen Elop didn’t know full well that the note would find it’s way into the public domain. Publishing such a contentious note onto the company intranet was always going to go public.

So a conscious decision to tell the world that your company is in trouble and you need to do something about it. For me comparisons with Gerald Ratner are unfair. Ratner, although often misquoted, made us feel that his customers were foolish for buying his jewellery. The ensuing media frenzy bought his career and largely his company to an end.

Arguably Elop was just following the three phases of a good presentation and message communication-

1. Tell them what you’re gonna tell them
2. Tell them
3.  Tell them what you told them.

By making the note public in the week of the announcement he made sure of two things, firstly the media was on maximum alert for Nokia news and secondly, when the news came, nobody was too surprised and in fact everybody had had a few days to brace themselves and get used to the idea. At MWC in Barcelona this week Mr Elop will be firmly in the third phase, telling everybody what he’s already told them.

For me therefore much more Rain Man than Ratner, it may have looked a little strange at first but actually turned out to be quite brilliant.

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