Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Did Nortel fail because of collaborative tools?

I was surprised and saddened to hear about Nortel's bankruptcy on the radio this morning. Not because I thought they were particularly healthy, but mostly because they were such a big firm, were such an key customer of mine at a couple of past employers, and, most importantly, were such a great equipment supplier for decades.

I read an article about their failure in on businessweek.com, that basically states that Nortel's attempt an innovating away from their past reliance on core carrier equipment was too little, too late and and that they chose the wrong products to develop. One comment caught my attention, however:
Roese used a public blog to communicate with customers and attempt to re-establish Nortel as an innovator.
This is clearly a problem. One key success criteria for this kind of public conversation is credible honesty. I didn't read the blog, so I can't comment on it specifically, but it would have been valid to discuss how Nortel is attempting to reinvent itself and becoming more innovative. Describe that process or journey, and the unique challenges that you're experiencing, but don't jump straight to a presumed conclusion that you have arrived as an innovator.

The 'death' of Nortel happened to occur on a day when we lost another great icon: Khan (Ricardo Montalban). Khan delivered one of the great movie lines of all time in Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan, when he quoted Melville's Moby Dick:
To the last, I will grapple with thee... from Hell's heart, I stab at thee! For hate's sake, I spit my last breath at thee!
KHAAANNNN!

KHAAANNNN!
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