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What is Your “Burning Platform”?


Earlier this week, Engadget published an internal memo written by Nokia CEO Stephen Elop in which he, now famously, likens his company’s situation to that of an oil worker trapped on a burning platform. His only option for survival is to radically change his behavior and jump into the icy waters of the North Sea.

A situation Nokia now finds itself in after having made a series of poor decisions. Elop conveys it this way:

How did we get to this point? Why did we fall behind when the world around us evolved?

This is what I have been trying to understand. I believe at least some of it has been due to our attitude inside Nokia. We poured gasoline on our own burning platform. I believe we have lacked accountability and leadership to align and direct the company through these disruptive times. We had a series of misses. We haven't been delivering innovation fast enough. We're not collaborating internally.

Nokia, our platform is burning.

The candor and brutal honesty in which Elop delivers his message is the reason his memo has twitter, facebook, and the blogging community abuzz. As he rallies his troops to “changed behavior” his message is one that should not be lost on the rest of us.

More often than not – in our businesses, our careers, our relationships, and in our very lives – we stand atop our own “burning platforms”, resisting or ignoring the clear signs that we are in danger and that a radical change in behavior is needed to survive or to lead a life worth living.

Business leaders should be vigilant in asking themselves, their employees and their customers where they are at risk.

    • Are we losing talent? Are we unable to attract the best? Is our culture standing in our way? Are our policies and programs outdated?


    • Are we so committed to being right about our products and product offerings that we are spending time, effort, and money on something that our clients no longer need or want?


    • Are we relevant? Are we innovative? Or are we playing catch-up and focused more on what our competitors are doing than paving our own path?


    • What are we pretending not to know?

And, as individuals, we should be asking ourselves the same thought-provoking questions.

    • Do I love what I do? Do I have a purpose? Am I accomplishing my goals and following my passion? Or am I settling/playing it safe?


    • Is my marriage or relationship fulfilling? Are my needs being met? Do I regularly give my best to my family? Am I still in love?


    • If nothing changes, if I continue down this path and look back on my life in 10 to 20, will I have any regrets?


    • What am I pretending not to know?

No matter how successful your company or your life, we typically have at least one “burning platform” smoldering at any given time. Take this opportunity to confront it and engage in some radical behavior change today.


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