There are no ‘last words’ in writing

I love J.K. Rowling, but the control she exercises over Harry Potter bothers me. Rowling insists upon having the last word in regards to the Harry Potter universe. She has the right, of course, because she is the creator of it. The universe is also a significant business asset, and Rowling is shrewdly controlling and marketing it by her release of new information.

But Rowling is refusing to leave her creation to her fans. There is no room for reinterpretation or independent exploration. You can’t wonder about Dumbledore’s love interests or speculate about the fate of Dolores Umbridge, even though these issues aren’t explained in the books. Rowling has since said that Dumbledore was gay and Umbridge spent the rest of her life in prison. Her authority silences other ideas. The public must wait until her death before the Harry Potter world really passes to them.

NOKIAomslag.6.3.2014.front coverLORES

I have always believed that when a book is published the author is opening it up for interpretation. I am happy this is the norm in nonfiction, because there are rarely any definitive final words regarding an issue. When my book The Decline and Fall of Nokia was published I had no belief or desire that it would be the final word on the company’s failure in the mobile device market. What I did want was for it to be used and discussed to better understand what happened. I also wanted it to be a damn good story. Luckily, that has turned out to be the case.

The book wasn’t even a month old before I was contacted by the University of Haaga-Helia who wanted to use my ideas in their International Business Management classes for their Master’s Degree Programme. I delightedly said yes.

Since then my book has been cited by academics and researchers in their own work. Last year Harry Bouwman of the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands used it for his paper How Nokia Failed to Nail the Smartphone Market.

This year Sandra Lubinaite of the Jyväskylä University School of Business and Economics used it for Strategic Technology Management of Nokia Corporation 2003-2013: Faulty Choices and the Collapse of the Handset Business, as did Timo O. Vuori and Quy N. Huy of Cornell University in Distributed Attention and Shared Emotions in the Innovative Process: How Nokia Lost the Smartphone Battle. I hope more academics cite it in the future.

Carl-Gustav Lindén's Nokia och Finland.

Carl-Gustav Lindén’s Nokia och Finland.

There are more books coming about Nokia, too. One I am particularly interested in is Nokia och Finland from Carl-Gustav Lindén. I have talked to Carl-Gustav several times over the past couple of years, and he knows his stuff. He even kindly agreed to be on-call during my book launch in case the first interviewer wasn’t able to make it.

There will certainly be even more interpretations to come in the future. The nice thing about the Nokia story is that all the information is out there: you just have to gather it, analyse it and make some conclusions. There is no one to jealously guard the story and squash external theories like Rowling is doing. Having your work reinterpreted is part of the fun.

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