Nokia's Risto Siilasmaa: Transformation Lessons from the Chairman

Risto Siilasmaa tells an extraordinary story. As Chairman of Nokia, he has seen the company transform from being a household name in mobile handsets to completely changing it's business and model. Risto's book, titled, Transforming Nokia, explains what happened and shares lessons from his personal experience. We are thrilled to welcome Risto to CXOTalk.


Oct 26, 2018

Risto Siilasmaa tells an extraordinary story. As Chairman of Nokia, he has seen the company transform from being a household name in mobile handsets to completely changing it's business and model. Risto's book, titled, Transforming Nokia, explains what happened and shares lessons from his personal experience. We are thrilled to welcome Risto to CXOTalk.

Risto is Chair of the Nokia Board of Directors. Board member since 2008. Chair since 2012. Chair of the Corporate Governance and Nomination Committee. Member of the Technology Committee. He has a Master of Science (Eng.), Helsinki University of Technology, Finland. Risto is President and CEO of F-Secure Corporation 1988–2006, which he founded while still in college. He is also Chairman of the Board of Directors of F-Secure Corporation. Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Federation of Finnish Technology Industries. Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Confederation of Finnish Industries (EK). Member of European Roundtable of Industrialists, and chairman of the Board of Directors of Elisa Corporation 2008–2012. 


Michael Krigsman: On this show, we talk a lot about disruption, but let's say you're running a large company and there's disruption; the sands are shifting underneath your feet in every possible way. That's our topic today on CXOTalk.

I'm Michael Krigsman. I'm an industry analyst. Before we go further, please, please subscribe on YouTube.

My guest today is Risto Siilasmaa, who is the chairman of Nokia. In mid-2012, his revenues were declining by 26% in Q1 and 40% in Q2. That's serious disruption. Risto, welcome to CXOTalk. Tell us, where is Nokia now?

Risto Siilasmaa: Thank you. It's great to be here. Nokia today is a completely different company. We have reinvented a 150-year-old company. What we do today is not mobile handsets. We develop network infrastructure. Anytime anybody in the world sends a bit into the Internet, be that email, video, or music, it will go through some Nokia equipment or Nokia software somewhere along the way. That's almost guaranteed. As a sign of the debt of the transformation, out of the 100,000-plus employees we have today, less than 1% worked in that old Nokia.

Michael Krigsman: That's a pretty extraordinary transition over just a few years. I hope that, during the course of this show, we can really dive into what happened and, in particular, the lessons that you learned about managing through disruptive periods of time. Maybe a good place to start is--how could I have not mentioned--you wrote a book [laughter] called Transforming Nokia. I read this book. I studied this book.

Risto Siilasmaa: I'm glad you remembered.

Michael Krigsman: I'm glad that I remembered too. It's a great book. I read this book, and I studied this book, so I encourage everybody. If you're interested in disruption, take a look.

Risto, tell us about the period of time when you joined Nokia. You were CEO, and then you became chairman of the board. What was happening then?

Risto Siilasmaa: Well, I joined the Nokia board in 2008. I'm an entrepreneur by background, so I had been CEO of my own company for 18 years. I was also chairing a large teleoperator for a few years.

I joined the Nokia board at the time when Nokia was on the top of the world, but iPhone had been launched the previous year and Android would be launched the same year that I joined the board. The financial crisis hit that fall. So, the air was so full of debris from these different sources that it was really difficult in the boardroom to understand what was the root cause of what and what was actually happening.

Michael Krigsman: At that time, let's start with, what was the driver of the financial results that I was just describing? Those are extraordinary numbers.

Risto Siilasmaa: In 2008, Nokia did really well. A few years earlier, Nokia was about 40+% of the world's handset market. At its best, the Symbian platform, which was the Nokia smartphone operating system, had over 70% market share in the world until iPhone and Android devices came from behind and bypassed the Nokia platforms. That started the decline of the Nokia business so that, come 2012, the situation was really dark and the press was speculating on the timing of Nokia's bankruptcy. It was not if; it was when.

Michael Krigsman: During that four-year period from 2008, roughly, to 2012, Nokia went from being the most broadly known household name in handsets, the most successful, the pride of Finland, the national pride. It's extraordinary that the disruption hit you so hard so fast.

Risto Siilasmaa: It tends to happen in multiple industries. Even in hindsight, there are only a few moments and only a few things that one could say with some degree of confidence that would have kept Nokia in the handset business. Even that is unsure because when you have built the whole company around a particular way of operations, a particular offering delivered in a particular way, and then those basic structures are shifting, it is really, really hard to adapt to that.

Just as an example, our core customers, operators, they were used to working in a particular way. For example, they wanted to warn their users when the smartphone might incur data charges. The Symbian platform was forced by the operators to display all these warning signs, which meant that sometimes when you launched an application, you had to click on, "Yes," eight times before the application actually launched.

Apple couldn't care less. They just wanted to make it as easy to use as possible. They told operators that if you don't like the iPhone, then we'll just sell it to your competitor. They all accepted, but they didn't want to accept similar changes from Nokia. There are powerful forces aligned against you when you want to disrupt yourself.

Michael Krigsman: When you talk about the powerful forces that are aligned against you when you want to disrupt yourself, I have really two questions about that. Number one, what were those forces in your case and, at the same time, why did the board not see what was coming in time to deal with it?

Risto Siilasmaa: I call this the toxicity of success. When a company is hugely successful in its own business, people change their behavior. It is very, very hard to resist. You may see that as sort of complacency, which doesn't mean that you wouldn't work hard. You just shift your attention onto different things, which may not challenge your thinking as much.

For example, you like to read what the media is saying about you. You like to follow the stock market. You like to talk to the analysts, but you might not spend as much time worrying about new competition. You might not spend as much time thinking about the competitiveness of your platforms, the technology that will be coming into the market. That's natural. It happens to the best of companies. Also, your customers are used to dealing with you the way that you have always dealt with them, and they will resist any change.

When a new player comes into the market, they don't have any existing contracts. They don't have any legacy baggage that they carry with them. Their code is all new. They don't have what we call development debt, which means that sort of old code and old structures that accumulate. You need to rewrite your code in a fairly frequent way to get rid of that debt.

There are a lot of things already against the incumbent. But, of course, the incumbent also has a lot of advantages, like Nokia. We were by far the biggest company. Our economies of scale were unsurpassed by anybody. Our R&D and research investments were much bigger than anybody else's. But, those advantages often fail in the face of a new entrant who comes in with the product that is superior to a certain portion of your customer base, and you may ignore them because they only address a small part.

Nokia thought that touch devices, which Nokia had a long history with, so it's not that Nokia didn't know touch devices. We had a touch device operating system already in 2004. We thought that touch devices are interesting only to a small fraction of the consumers, the consumer market, and that numeric keypads, QWERTY keypads would still be necessary, a Blackberry type device would be necessary, and so forth. But, that was all wrong. The touch devices took the whole market.

Michael Krigsman: We're speaking with Risto Siilasmaa, who is the chairman of Nokia. Right now, there is a tweet chat taking place. You can ask questions and share your comments using the hashtag #CXOTalk. It's a rare opportunity to ask the chairman of Nokia your questions directly. He's the author of a really good book called Transforming Nokia. I've been reading it. It's really quite good.

Risto, was there anything that the board of Nokia at that time could have done, and what are the broader lessons that successful incumbents today need to be aware of so that they're not disrupted so quickly in the same way that Nokia was?

Risto Siilasmaa: I think there are a few questions that any board could discuss. For example, do they get bad news? I don't mean just bad news that has happened and they have to be told. But, do they get sort of bad news about the future of the company? Do they get doubts whether a strategic program will work out? Are people brave enough and open enough to tell them that something that is being worked on might not function in the end, might not be successful?

Also, is the team digging for bad new? I'm talking about the management team. Sometimes, in these hugely successful companies, the management team feels that they will be told what they need to know and they stop digging. Then if, in that situation, the people lower down become afraid of going to the top team with bad news, then that top team will be isolated.

You should also think about three things about the board agenda. One is, what are you talking about? Are you spending enough time on competition, on core technologies? Are you spending enough time on your customers? Are you thinking strategically about the future of the markets?

The second question is, how are you doing that? For example, in Nokia, we created what we call the Golden Rules for the board work. We had a discussion of what kind of way of working would be most likely to enable us to solve the significant challenges that the company was facing together with the management team. Spending time on talking about not just the "what" but the "how" is worthwhile.

Finally, can we challenge everybody? Can everybody be challenged so that the chairman, the CEO, and a powerful board member or management team member, everybody feels okay to challenge them. These three questions will not provide you with any definite answers, but it will be a very healthy discussion in the team to talk about them.

Also, if you decide to come up with your own golden rules, you shouldn't copy anybody else's. You should have that debate and discussion your own boardroom and then think about what kind of behavior in our board, and between our board and the management team, would be most likely to help the company to be successful.

Michael Krigsman: It seems like one of the real issues that many large companies face is senior managers are distant from the truth, so let me ask you. Number one, why is that and how can an organization overcome that?

Risto Siilasmaa: That's a great question. Of course, there are many different answers. There are many different types of CEOs as well.

I think one way of looking at that is the way we look at CEOs. They are on a pedestal. They are demigods. And, we assume that they know everything, and we force them to pretend that they know everything.

We make it very difficult for them to ask stupid questions, and we make it very difficult for them to admit that there's something that people assume they know, but they don't actually don't. That can create a culture where people don't go to tell the CEO these bad news because they assume that they already know. Also, why would I hurt that demigod's feelings or why would I go and make his day a bad one?

How do you create a culture where everybody would be brave enough to admit what they don't know? It would not be a bad thing. We can all learn. We can all get feedback in a very open culture.

That kind of a culture is easy to create when you're a challenger, but it's quite difficult to create when you are at the top of the hill. Just by understanding the challenge created by being hugely successful helps you cope with it.

Michael Krigsman: Yes, of course, startup companies live and die by the immediacy of events happening around them, as you know, having started a company, F-Secure, and run that company for 18 years as CEO. But, what advice do you have for senior managers in large organizations who are aware that they're not getting that level of truth and, try as they might, it seems like an impossible task? What should they do?

Risto Siilasmaa: Well, if you feel that you are not getting the God's honest truth from the troops, then the first thing is to tell them what you expect and what you will reward. When people come to you with bad news, you need to smile and thank them from the bottom of your heart and prove with your actions that you actually want to hear what is really happening. You need to do deep-dives. Once you find out [about] problems somewhere, you need to learn more.

One way to kickstart this is to interview the direct reports of your own direct reports. For the CEO, for example, just have occasional meetings with the N minus two leaders. That's what I do with my CEOs because the board needs to know what kind of a CEO they have. Oftentimes, boards don't really know what's happening. They will be the last to know that the CEO is not the right one anymore.

What I do is I have regular interviews with the CEO's direct reports every year, and I always talk to them about the same five things. The first one is the culture of the company. How is the CEO leading the culture? What direction and what actions is the CEO taking?

The second one is, what are the management team meetings like? How are the agendas planned? Is there enough time? Is the discussion free? Does everybody feel they can say what they really think? Are there disputes between management team members? How does the CEO deal with those disputes, and so forth and so forth?

The third topic is, what's the relationship between the CEO and this particular leader? How is the CEO developing that leader? What kind of feedback is the CEO giving?

The fourth topic is, what are the expectations of that leader? What are the hopes for the future of that leader? Would that leader like to be a CEO candidate some time down the road?

Finally, what feedback would that leader give to the board? How could the board be more helpful to the management for them to run the company better?

This is a way for me to learn about the CEO. I do it extremely transparently, so I report everything I hear to the CEO, but I don't point out who said what. I try to help the CEO to fix what needs to be fixed and help the CEO to develop. This is a way for me to understand better what kind of a CEO we have, but also learn more about the company.

The CEO can use the same tool and, when you talk to ten people, you just sense where the problems are. Then you can start scratching from that area and ask the next person more questions about that area, and you will just find out.

I believe that there is a pragmatic tool for almost any problem. If you just think about it deeply enough, you'll figure out a way to do it, and you'll figure out a way to measure it as well, so building KPIs to see how much progress we are making is always possible.

Michael Krigsman: We have a very interesting question from Twitter on this point that you've just been talking about. Can you transform or how do you transform an organization that does not trust its leadership?

Risto Siilasmaa: Well, if the organization doesn't trust its leadership, probably you need to change either the leadership or the organization. The company probably doesn't have time for anything else. It's a question of how has that distrust been generated and created. But, obviously, the primary role and primary duty of any leadership team is to create an environment of trust.

That is very much a key priority for Nokia as well because, after those four years of constant declines, layoffs, disappointments, killed projects, poor quality, and profit warnings, we were all pretty depressed, and we all doubted ourselves like this is my fault this is happening on my duty. How do we start building a layer of trust on top of that uncertainty so that we can start talk opening about what might happen?

We found that when we started talking openly in a scenario-based way about what might happen in the future, starting with the worst outcome, that actually reduced the fear because if we only have one plan and we know that the one plan that we had previously has never worked out, then the future looks pretty daunting and scary. But, once you lay out the different versions of the future, you can start building action plans to prevent the bad futures and to make the good futures more likely.

You suddenly are in control because you are taking action to define your own future. That takes the fear away. Then you can freely talk about even the possibility of a major company going bankrupt, and you can talk about how we prevent that. How would we, early on, notice that now we are on a path that leads to a possible bankruptcy or any other nasty scenario?

Michael Krigsman: The function of this kind of scenario-based planning is both in terms of the immediate result, namely we identify potential outcomes and can consider the various paths that might be available, but it sounds like almost equally important is reducing the fear, getting things on the table, and bringing the participants closer into the potential choices, which creates that sense of control.

Risto Siilasmaa: Yeah, when you set out to define the possible futures for your own business, and you may even designate a Cassandra or a red team, a couple board members or a couple management team members who are supposed to come up with the worst outcomes. That's their duty. Nobody will blame them for that.

If they do a good job, they will come out with really horrendous futures for the company. You see all those futures, you can start planning the actions, and you can feel a little bit in control.

You're also changing the culture because, if you have many futures that you can contemplate, none of those are critical because, if one fails, you have five left. If you only have one plan and then that fails, you have nothing left.

Therefore, it might be that people don't want to talk about the only plan failing as long as they can avoid it. But, if you have five plans, it's much easier to say that, "Hey, now the plan B doesn't seem to be working out," and we set this threshold for that KPI to actually scrap the whole plan. Now we have reached that level, so we should stop doing this." It's fine because we have four others left. It can really change the way people talk and, therefore, the culture of that team.

Michael Krigsman: During this period of time, going back to your experience, this very disruptive period of Nokia, you got involved with Microsoft, which was developing the Windows phone, Windows OS for mobile. Tell us what happened and weave in the scenario planning that you were just describing as well, please.

Risto Siilasmaa: Yeah. About a year and a half before I became chairman, we had just hired a new CEO who launched a big project to discover what the capabilities of the company were. We had two main smartphone platforms. We had the Symbian platform that had been a problem child for a very long time, and then we had been working on a new one called MeeGo, which was supposed to be the best smartphone platform ever.

That CEO, in a period of a few months, discovered that, actually, both were beyond salvageable. That was a huge shock to all of us on the board. We had believed in MeeGo. We had held those prototype devices in our hands, we had seen demos, and we believed that it's real. Then we were told that, actually, it's not real; it's not going to work out.

The company that had always relied on its own core operating systems had to decide to pick either Android or Windows phone. Those were the only choices left. That was perhaps the most painful decision that I have ever had to participate in.

We chose the Windows phone, and I'm trying to describe in the book how difficult that choice was because there were pros and cons, of course, for both, and this was a gigantic position for the company. We chose Windows phone for various reasons and launched the first Windows phone, first Lumia device about ten months later.

It didn't start well. We grew, but we were so much behind Android and iPhone, who had started their own growth process and accumulating more momentum a couple years, four years, or three years earlier. We were just too much behind the growth curve, so it was hard.

Then Microsoft announced that they would bring out their own Surface devices, tablets. For the first time, Microsoft went into the market that they had always partnered with their OEMs, the likes of IBM, Intel, and HP. Now they went directly into that market with their own device.

Of course, we started thinking, okay, what about if they do a mobile phone as well, a smartphone? That would be a real killer for us because we were in an exclusive relationship with Microsoft and our whole smartphone future was dependent on a Windows phone. Then we might have to compete with our own supplier of that core software.

That's when we started using scenario planning. We established two committees for the board. We worked very closely with the management team. One was working on the network infrastructure business trying to understand what's going to happen there because we had a joint venture, which was doing very badly and bleeding money. We wanted to get rid of that, so we built five scenarios through which we would get rid of that asset.

Then a second committee for Microsoft, we called the committee the Industry Dynamics Committee, that was actually a pseudonym for "What the heck is Microsoft planning to do?" There, we built a number of scenarios on what might Microsoft do. Then we started actions on reducing the likelihood of Microsoft buying HTC, for example, and trying to increase the likelihood of positive outcomes for Nokia.

Then we went into an eight-month-long negotiation process with Microsoft where we're thinking whether they would acquire Nokia or do something different. That was quite a rollercoaster ride.

Michael Krigsman: I remember at that time I was involved with Microsoft doing some consulting for them, and people walking around with the highest end Nokia phone that had the great camera. It was like 40 megapixels, right?

Risto Siilasmaa: Forty-one.

Michael Krigsman: Forty-one, which at that time was a huge number.

Risto Siilasmaa: It's still a huge number.

Michael Krigsman: That's right. It's still a huge number. I remember saying, "Oh, I want to get one of these, but the supply was constrained." You talk about that in your book. I'm holding up a copy of your book for people to see. I thought, "Wow. These Microsofties have this great Nokia phone, but I can't get one." That must have been really frustrating for you.

Risto Siilasmaa: Yeah, at that time when that device came out, we had actually pretty much given up hope for a Windows phone already, just a few months earlier. We had a flagship device called 920, which had a great OS. The Windows phone was truly a great OS. It had the best hardware we could build. It had the best display in the whole world. It had the most sensitive touchscreen ever. It had wireless charging. It had all the goodies.

In April of that year, it started declining in sales before reaching really sizable numbers. That was, for me personally, the sign that, okay, a Windows phone will not make it. That spring, we sold maybe 300,000 or got 300,000 new users every week, whereas Android was getting a million every day.

This was a battle for the users, but the users cared about applications and experiences, so it was actually a battle for those applications. But, nobody wanted to develop applications for a high number of different platforms because it's expensive and time-consuming. So, the iPhone was a given; Android was a given; everything else was a question mark.

The only way we would have gotten all the major application vendors building applications for a Windows phone was if we had a huge number of users, which we didn't. We couldn't get those users because we didn't have the applications. There's a vicious circle, and the momentum of that one million users per day as opposed to our 300,000-ish per week, the delta was just so big that we determined that it's very unlikely that we could make it.

Michael Krigsman: We have a question from Twitter, but I have to ask you. During this period of time, again, just remind, set the stage for everybody. Nokia is one of the crown jewels of Finland. The market was collapsing, and there was a very strong risk, possibility that Nokia would even go bankrupt. Revenues were declining just huge amounts quarter over quarter. In that kind of situation, how did you maintain a clear mind and not get overcome with depression? How were you able to summon the internal resources needed to do that?

Risto Siilasmaa: We had a great team. We had a great board with great board members. We had a great management team with people who were extremely loyal to Nokia. They bled the Nokia blue. Of course, the people close to you give you energy, they give you faith, and you return that.

You are optimistic. You believe that we will find a way. They believe because you believe. Then you believe because they believe. That teamwork, the talent helps you to believe.

I believe in what I call paranoid optimism, which means that if you think about the worst outcomes and you act to prevent them, then you can have a calm mind to focus on the positive outcomes and make them happen. Being paranoid actually helps you being an optimist. The board and the management team, in a way, exercised paranoid optimism.

We talked about the worst outcomes. We used to say that we put the moose on the table. In the Finnish language, we have a saying that we put the cat on the table when the elephant in the room is being discussed. But, Nokia's problems were so big that the cat was not sufficient, so we talked about the moose.

That gave us faith, and we had the fighting spirit. We had a lot of fun. There was not a single board meeting where we didn't laugh out loud. It's actually one of our golden rules that a board meeting without laughing out loud is a dismal failure. It was not that I gave others faith; others gave me faith, and I returned that.

Michael Krigsman: You mentioned it's one of the things you described in the book is, during those darkest times, to always make sure that there is that element of lightheartedness while you're dealing with these very, very difficult issues.

Risto Siilasmaa: Yeah. Smiling is not sufficient. We need to laugh out loud. I happily make myself the clown if that helps others to have that moment of joy.

Michael Krigsman: It's hard to imagine what it must be like going through that situation. We have another question from Twitter, a really good one, and this is going back to the discussion we had a little bit earlier about the operational folks, the managers in the company. This is from Arsalan Khan who asks, "How do you make the operational people take their heads out of the sand and think about the future?"

Risto Siilasmaa: I think one should always lead by example. You can also measure the prevailing culture. You could ask in an employee survey, all the personnel of the company, how easy it is for you to think about the future, how easy it is for you to think about the problems of the future, how easy it is for you to discuss those sort of scenarios, problems, issues, or future related thinking with your colleagues or your boss. There's no absolute level of what is right and what is not, but there's a trend that you can see.

If you are afraid that people in the organization don't dare do something that they should, you can actually start measuring that. Of course, you need to talk about it. You need to talk about repeatedly about what you want to see happening. People will listen, but then you have to walk the talk yourself and lead by example.

Michael Krigsman: You know I'm just thinking, gee, we're running out of time and there's a bunch of other things that I need to talk with you about and ask you about. I'm just thinking of large companies that I know, and successful ones that have been around, where the CEO talks in terms of slogans, almost marketing slogans. The team, therefore, talks about marketing slogans. I'm just thinking how disconnected that is from reality.

Risto Siilasmaa: Yeah, it can be disconnected from reality. That's a little bit of what we experienced on the Nokia board. We always had a plan on how to turn things around, but that plan never worked out. The plan was always beautiful, but it was, in a way, superficial. There were lower levels, more details, and actions, but we didn't have time to get into those, so we only saw the surface.

The question is always, when you hear those slogans by the CEO, what is underneath? Slogans are important. We need to simplify things, and we need to have punchy ways of expressing our goals. But then, you have to have the substance underneath. Just somebody talking via slogans doesn't mean that there wouldn't be substance underneath. You have to dig deeper to find out.

Michael Krigsman: Before we move on, I really want to talk about you diving into machine learning. But, before we move on, are there any last minute thoughts that you would like to share regarding these topics we've just been discussing, Risto?

Risto Siilasmaa: There are many, but I love machine learning so much that I'm eager to move into that topic as well.

Michael Krigsman: [Laughter] Well, we only have about five minutes, and we could certainly go on talking about these leadership issues for a long time. Several years ago, you decided that you were going to become a programmer, again, after 30 years, in machine learning. Please, tell us about that.

Risto Siilasmaa: I was one of those CEOs or chairmen who became trapped by the role I have. The role I have is one where things are explained to me. I don't need to dig for explanations myself. There is a team that does a ten-page presentation. Then I read that. Maybe I memorize ten different slogans. Then I can confidently speak to large audiences about difficult topics. I just repeat those slogans that I have heard others say, but I don't actually understand the topic.

I tried. I wormed my way into the calendars of some of the top researchers in the world on machine learning. I asked them to explain to me how it works, what it means, and I never understood what they were trying to say. I think many of them actually didn't want me to understand. What they wanted to convey was how much they understood, so maybe we would fund their research projects or whatever.

In the end, at the peak of frustration, I realized that, hey, I was approaching this the wrong way. I was a captive of my own role. I had forgotten that I, myself, can study. Then, maybe I can explain to others in a way that I would have wanted somebody to explain to me how machine learning works.

Then, I started programming again, and it was a lot of fun. I did a number of courses taught by Andrew Ng, who is one of the top machine learning scientists in the world, a professor at Stanford, and a great teacher, and did all sorts of exercises and prototype programs. Then, I created a lesson for CEOs, chairmen, politicians, and other leaders to understand the essence of machine learning.

I have had so much fun, both studying, programming, and talking about machine learning.

In Nokia, we decided that every single one of our 100,000-plus employees will have to do a course on machine learning; not a complicated one. They just have to understand the essence of it so that they can ask the right questions. When they bump into a business problem, they can have the intuitive feeling that, hey, maybe this problem could be solved using machine learning. Then they can go and talk to experts. But, you have to have that initiation first and, for that, you need to learn. It's like a code of conduct training for Nokia employees. By this Christmas, everyone should have done that.

Michael Krigsman: You have a video where you present the concepts of machine learning. It's about an hour. I listened to it. It's really clear. It's really good. Risto, as we finish up, I think artificial intelligence and machine learning, the enterprise software business is so filled with hype about these topics. I suspect that, for most of the people, they're really just words. And so, you've made this priority to have your team at Nokia be clear about what machine learning actually is. Can you tell us what has been the benefit or why did you do this and what has been the benefit? Unfortunately, I'll have to ask you to be pretty quick because we're pretty much out of time.

Risto Siilasmaa: It's not that I pushed the team towards machine learning. They knew, the CEO and the leadership team; they understand. But, I managed to help them a little bit by doing what I did, which was unexpected from a chairman. The unexpected nature of it sort of woke people up that, hey, something is happening because even the chairman is studying this, so maybe I should too.

Then, I have held these training sessions for the board and for the management team as well so that they would understand a little bit more. We have a huge training program. We have Bell Labs with over 1,000 Ph.D.s, many of whom do machine learning. Actually, some of the key concepts have been discovered by Bell Labs, so we have a huge competence base of machine learning in the company. We just need to apply it. That's what we're doing now.

Michael Krigsman: Okay. I think we're pretty much out of time. Any closing thoughts that you would lie to share?

Risto Siilasmaa: This was fun, and I hope that the lessons that Nokia has experienced will help others, both entrepreneurs in smaller companies but also large companies that are hugely successful and want to learn what will keep them successful.

Michael Krigsman: Well, it's been a very, very fast 45 minutes, and I'd like to thank everybody. We have been speaking with Risto Siilasmaa, who is the chairman of Nokia. Risto, thank you so much, and I hope you'll come back and do this again another time.

Risto Siilasmaa: Thank you. Your pronunciation of my last name is improving every time you say it.

Michael Krigsman: All right, well, next time--

Risto Siilasmaa: Good going. [Laughter]

Michael Krigsman: [Laughter] Next time, it will be even better. Thank you. Everybody, have a great day and we'll talk with you soon.

Published Date: Oct 26, 2018

Author: Michael Krigsman

Episode ID: 561