$7 – What Happened to Blackberry?

Sophistication. Professionalism. Business Savvy.

Starry eyed and new to world of business, the Blackberry represented just that to me. One of my first interactions with a true business leader and mentor was a district manager of a store I was employed. He would travel to different parts of the state to review our sales, performance, and merchandising. He was professional and had business smarts about him as he walked through the store with a briefcase and a charismatic personality. I wanted to be just like him. At all times, it seemed, he had with him a Blackberry. It was a communication tool for connecting to other stores and the home office with reports and performance metrics. In my naivety, I quickly associated the Blackberry with these characteristics.

Blackberry at this time was booming. In 2009, it was even rated by Fortune magazine as the fasted growing company in the world. It had 84% sales grow increase per year. According to David Goldman in a 2009 CNN Money article Blackberry is Still Leader of the Pack “experts cite competitive pricing, business expertise, and new consumer products as reasons for RIM’s sustained growth.” In 2007 the stock price of RIM (Research in Motion is the former name for Blackberry) was as high as $236 per share and now the stock price is just under $7. Something must have happened.

And something did happen.

In 2007, the first Apple iPhone was introduced with is touch screen keyboard and app ecosystem. Unlike the Blackberry, which catered to the business professional and government employee, it was catered to the everyday consumer. Apple was able to pivot by shifting its business focus when it perceived that iPods were beginning to show signs of product maturity. It adapted to combine music, email, phone calls, and applications on one device. This adaptation to the dynamic technology industry was crucial to the success of its product line. Innovation was a strategy that gave Apple a competitive advantage.

Meanwhile in Canada…

While the iPhone was building in popularity with consumers, the Canadian based Blackberry sat back in its comfortable market space and continued to produce the same Blackberry product. Slowly, its product lines were becoming irrelevant in a world of advancing smartphone software and technologies. According to a Canadian analysis of the company, there were ideas by top management on how to work through the problems that were arising in the beginning but the good decisions failed to be implemented.

One of the responses by the CEO at the time, Mike Lazaridis, was to buy a software development firm called Torch Mobile. This firm specialized in internet browsers for mobile phones. What iPhone did that Blackberry didn’t was have a fully Internet-capable browser. Furthermore, Apple and android used newer software platforms as compared to RIM. Lazaridis’ decision to buy this firm was a signal that he would lead the company into a red ocean strategy (where the market is full of sharks and bloody with competition). It was a mistake to decide  to be a copy of the top competitors  and  to go head to head against the competition with which it was already losing.

Back at the workplace….

I watch as the third party tech rep stops by to pick up a Blackberry from the marketing department to be repaired. It is dropped with a hollow THUNK! into a box of broken Blackberries that are soon to share the same fate. THUNK just like the stock price of Blackberry. They should have thunk outside of the box and thunk sooner.  The box full of outdated Blackberrys was a symbol of the slow response and the lack of innovation that began the company’s downfall. What had been a symbol of authority and sophistication to me was now a symbol of poor decisions by leadership and poor corporate strategy.



“The Myths of Creatvity”


It’s a funny little word with potent meaning. It means to expose or excoriate (a claim, assertion, sentiment, etc.) as being pretentious, false, or exaggerated. It’s not until we debunk old myths and misconceptions that we can begin to create effective strategies.

I’m a big supporter of continuous learning and one of the most important things that has been ingrained in me in my undergrad time was the power of modern research to back up a statement.  I’ve learned the value of databases, scholarly articles, and publications. With these resources for modern research as a strong foundation, we can begin to reveal misconceptions that we may have regarding strategy, leadership, innovation, and etc.

I have recently finished reading a book that did just that and it’s one that made me rethink the way I view creativity and innovation. This book is called The Myths of Creativity by author and scholar David Burkus. It is “the truth about how innovative companies and people generate great ideas.” This book is about using modern research and stories to debunk myths and misconceptions…debunk it did. One of the most surprising myths to me was the “Eureka Myth”. This is the myth that ideas pop out of nowhere and the hard work is the next step. The revealing of this untruth, to me, explains why it is important to step away from a problem solving endeavor in order to let my thoughts “incubate” (more about that concept is explained in the book).

Another myth is one that gives me hope when debunked. This is the “breed myth”. My perception of a creative person has been just like the book explains; a long haired artist, or in the business world, one of those marketing folks. A management major with interests in finance isn’t one we view as creative which meant I was spit out of luck. With research from the University of Berkeley California explained in Myths the falsity of this assumption. I shan’t give away anymore of the myths in the book but there are 10 myths in total that, when revealed and applied, have the ability to generate a competitive advantage in the way we create, innovate, and lead. 

I would recommend this book to anyone, not just business people and innovative people, but to anyone whom creativity applies in your work and daily life (which is all of us). I found this book similar to Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths & Total Nonsense; Profiting From Evidence-Based Management by Jeffery Pfeffer and Robert I. Sutton. It is anther debunking book that uses strong research to reveal half-truths in the business world and show we can profit from evidence.

The Myths of Creativity will be sure to debunk the misconceptions regarding creativity and innovation and set us straight in a way that we can profit from.