RIM Shot: The End of Innovation

The arrogance of success is to think that what you did yesterday will be sufficient for tomorrow.” William Pollard   


RIM Shot: The End of Innovation

What happens when a company fails to innovate?

RIM, the maker of BlackBerry, is in big trouble.  Sales of its handsets are down 30% over the last year and recently released earnings show them missing their projections by $1 billion (that’s with a “B.”) The media and investors have been merciless in their criticism of the company’s operations and it’s not without merit.

Why has a phone synonymous with business failed to remain competitive in what was previously thought of as a one market space?


You may remember some of their ups and downs.  In 2008, RIM was Canada’s most profitable company with stock valued over $150 per share.  But with the release of the iPhone and Android their stock lost a third of its value and the company had trouble adjusting.  They suffered from a lack of vision, missed product launches, and bad marketing.  2011 was particularly hard with the disastrous launch of its tablet, Playbook.  Then Co-CEO (notice any problem there?) Mike Lazaridis garnered significant negative attention when he stormed out of a very public BBC interview.  In October the world got a firsthand look at their inadequate infrastructure when BlackBerry’s service went down for three full days.  Now, half way through 2012, their stock price is down 73% over a year ago and may continue to fall.  RIM is laying off one-third of its workforce and has delayed the release of its newest BlackBerry until after the crucial holiday season.

Sadly, their failure to innovate has made them obsolete. They focused on the enterprise customer, completely forgetting who their end consumer was.  Their R&D was spent on security, battery life and buttons with no thought given to the Apps race or the consumption of media.  They completely ignored the social aspect of connecting consumers which was ultimately their downfall.

Meanwhile, companies like Netflix, Instagram and Pinterest are all the rage.  They’re listening to the consumer and are out in front with products that people are talking about.  All while Blockbuster, Microsoft’s Zune, and the search engine Alta Vista are no more.   It’s a demonstration of how fickle the American consumer is and how short the technology lifespan can be.   But there’s a hard learned lesson there as well:

Innovation isn’t just a buzz word.  And it’s not something that belongs in the board room.  Companies that invest in the identification of pain points, new monetization strategies, and enhancing capabilities create a long term path to success.  Creating an innovation minded culture also focuses employees on problem solving, efficiency and execution.  It’s transformative.

Could RIM make a comeback?  It’s doubtful.  At this late stage, it would require a complete shift in their corporate strategy, marketing approach, and company culture.  Most of all though it would require a huge investment in the talent that could bring a competitive product to market.  The company no longer has the time or funds for such a venture.  What’s more likely is a break-up of the company or a take-over by another brand.  Let’s just hope that the good people left at RIM move on to a culture that supports what they’re capable of.

As for the rest of us, the message is clear: Failure to anticipate, innovate and execute are a death sentence.  Technology companies that don’t innovate are destined to die.


For more on innovation be sure to check out “Implementing Innovation.”




Author: Crowe Mead    copyright 2012     http://www.betterleadershipblog.com

Posted on by Crowe Mead in Leadership, Productivity

4 Responses to RIM Shot: The End of Innovation

  1. Jay Accurso

    Great article but I would have liked to have seen more about what RIM could have done differently. What SHOULD they have done?

  2. Crowe Mead

    Thanks for the comment, Jay. For the sake of brevity, I didn’t delve any deeper but there certainly is more to explore.

    A partnership with Amazon would have made a lot of sense. Amazon Cloud Services seemed a natural for the Playbook. The ability to view Amazon Prime videos directly would compete directly with Hulu, Netflix, etc. Amazon would have also provided the network infrastructure so badly needed by RIM.

    Of course, just being able to execute on committed dates would have been a huge improvement too. The ability to do what you say you will would have gone a long ways towards bolstering investor and consumer confidence.

  3. Brian

    Good article Crowe……Motricity is another good example of a company that lacked innovation and fell by wayside….

    • Crowe Mead

      Thanks Brian! Motricity is a case study in lost potential. Lots to be said there. 🙂

Add a Comment