One brand, different platforms (part 8) – Nokia’s wise approach to crowdsourcing

The world is too fast, complex and networked for any company to have all the answers inside

Yochai Benkler, author of The Wealth Of Networks

Wow, it’s already the 8th part of this series about brands and their web-based participatory efforts. Companies like Danone, Heineken, Coca-Cola, Siemens, Unilever, GE and Dell do leverage web 2.0 to innovate and engage consumers, this part is dedicated to Nokia. The Finnish cellphone manufacturer seriously missed the co-creative push ushered by Apple and its applications, so they had to catch up and innovate their own way out of this crisis. Here are some of their initiatives, and they’re still learning.

connecting people

Apple launched it’s iPhone in mid-2007, and with it came a growing ecosystem of user-generated applications. At the end of August of the same year, Nokia announced the launch of the Nokia Music Store (to counter iTunes) and the Ovi Store (to counter the AppStore). “It’s clear that Apple and Nokia both want very badly to be the dominant mobile computing company for young adults“, a blogger said back then… If I’m not mistaken, one of the first platforms that had been launched was Nokia Beta Labs. A year after the launch, Business Week wrote about some early successes of Nokia’s user-driven innovation, and Nokia also opened a wiki for open source development, and a series of internal wikis.


A screenshot of an internal ideation platform (image via

Social Media researchers  Kaplan & Haenlein (2010) say that “Nokia […] uses internal wikis to update employees on project status and to trade ideas, which are used by about 20% of its 68,000 staff members“. But this post isn’t about internal idea management, more is it about engagement of external audiences for marketing and innovation purposes. When the Ovi Store moved out of beta, Nokia was still lagging behind Apple: “In order to speed up the development of applications […] Nokia decided to launch the Calling All Innovators platform aimed at Crowdsourcing the development of applications“, say Eric Schenk and Claude Guittard from the University of Strasbourg, France. Check out the video that was released back then… so 2009 😉

Applications like GreenTravaler or Angry Birds where awarded prizes in 2010’s edition of Calling All Innovators. The website is still live, but the Calling All Innovators has ended, leaving room for another platform called Ideas Project. This one is kind of the Finnish equivalent for Dell’s Ideastorm, except that it’s available in two different languages: English and Chinese. Currently, the website holds challenges like “Education For All” with UNESCO or “Designing Privacy”. It’s all about getting fresh ideas:

Nokia sees idea crowdsourcing as being at the center of social media and open innovation (Service Innovation Yearbook 2010-2011, European Union)

Not only does Nokia see idea crowdsourcing as essential in their innovation efforts, but they know that “[they] are in a tough competition over the share of people’s minds and time“. Hence, it’s crucial to find out more what would drive peoples’ contribution to platforms like Ideas Project. And recent readings make me think that they know their audiences quite well: “we’ve learned that challenge participants are motivated by one obvious factor above the rest […] small tangible rewards such as Nokia’s newest mobile devices have motivated people more than any other reward“, says Pia Erkinheimo, Head of Idea Crowdsourcing, in a recently released whitepaper.

We’ve noticed that the best solution is to combine the wisdom of the crowds and the wisdom of the jury

But Nokia knows that they can’t do everything by themselves. For topics that aren’t directly linked to product or service innovation, they also partner with specialized actors. For example, they partnered up with AudioDraft to remake the famous Nokia Ringtone ; the winner was an Italian DJ (see here) who created a dubstep-version of the ringtone, which will be installed on ALL new Nokia smartphones. And to illustrate Nokia’s new claim “Everything’s just a swipe away”, the Finnish brand partnered with eYeka, a global co-creation community, to launch a video contest around “Swiping to the best parts of your life”.


This post focuses on crowdsourcing and co-creation, but Nokia knows that there’s a lot more to explore. “The business model and different methods have multiple potential variations like gamification, crowdfunding, microwork or prediction market places“, says Pia Erkinheimo, before concluding with a lucid conclusion:

even surrounded by tempting Internet buzzwords and phenomena, we must keep in mind the fundamental reason for the existence of IdeasProject are the people. Ideas are nothing alone but people make them real

Amen! 😉

Update of February 1st 2012: Dr. Frank Ermar, who has worked with Nokia on Challenge Driven Innovation (CDI) intitiatives, lists some insightfl pros & cons of crowdsourcing here. In the comments, he shares another channel that I missed in my post, Invent With Nokia, which is a site where savvy inventors can submit ideas (and more) and collaborate with the Finnish brand for co-development. Thanks for sharing this, Dr. Ermar.

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