Settling for present puts future at risk

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Settling for present puts future at risk


Throughout last week, the keyword that did not leave my mind was “Nokia,” after Microsoft announced its acquisition of the firm’s cell phone division for $7.2 billion. Korean media also paid keen attention to the transaction. While some articles focused on the decline of the Finish communications pioneer, many analyzed the potential impact on Samsung and urged it to learn from the case. Such a response is natural as Samsung’s mobile phones make up a considerable portion of Korea’s exports.

However, Nokia reminds me of different memories. When I was on an extended business trip to China for a special series on the Chinese economy more than a decade ago, the cellular phone I had purchased there was a Nokia phone. At the time, Nokia was synonymous for cell phone in China, thanks to its dominant market share. The phone was affordable and of good quality. As I travelled from one unfamiliar city to another, the phone was the only thing I could rely on. Whenever I recall the trip, the Nokia phone always comes to my mind.

Another memory is the “greatness” that Nokia’s name is associated with. In the early 2000s, I was covering the electronics industry, and Nokia was an unchallenged giant with nearly 70 percent of the world’s market share. Now, I feel overwhelming pride that a Korean company has caught up and surpassed Nokia.

In addition to its glories and accomplishments, the Finnish company has dark shadows. Along with Eastman Kodak, which filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last year, Nokia has become a case study in business schools as an example of the collapse of a market leader.

Kodak was the first company to develop digital camera technology, but while trying to protect the film market, it was marginalized in the era of digital cameras. Nokia has countless mobile-related patents but failed to keep up with the times as it focused on feature phones. Both companies declined because of the psychological failure that interferes with progressive and reasonable decision-making in management.

Having achieved significant success, anyone can run the risk of this “psychological failure” by essentially forgetting the “order of the universe” and becoming content with the present. However, the order of the universe is that everything comes and goes, and being complacent with the present can ruin the future.

You can only succeed when you give up what is comfortable in the present and search for a new future. Yet, it is not so easy to give up our comfort zones that we have now. But the course of Nokia’s decline once again reminds us that there will be no future if we settle for the present.

*The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

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