in Waterloo

OMG the RIM is falling

If you didn’t think RIM was in trouble before one of the co-CEO’s had a meltdown on BBC you certainly started to wonder once that happened. For someone at that level to crack on TV in such a way they must be under immense pressure, now we know what it was. The company has hit a bad time. When that interview happened he must have known the Playbook just wasn’t ready and they had sacrificed the timing on the next model of the Blackberry (and how many great devs) to get that thing out fast. The delays are something they couldn’t afford with Apple’s profits soaring and Android making a whole bunch of different hardware decent to use. The media reaction is visceral, the talk of layoffs is the big news but lacks perspective and certainly is going to do some damage to their stock price (down to ~$25 from $45). Look at their basic numbers though, they are still OK with a lot of cash in the bank but they can’t afford business as usual. It is time to wake up.

There is a lot of talk about what they need to do or if they could be sold. I won’t pretend to have any idea on that. What I do know is that the culture there is broken — no I don’t work there but I have enough friends there and hear enough Office Space-esque stories that you know something is wrong. I know they love cubicles. I know they do nothing like what Google or Desire2Learn does locally for their employees. I know the office environment resembles an insurance company in the 1990’s (for most staff). I know they completely ignore Silicon Valley. RIM is competing with Apple, Google, and Microsoft on devices but on the culture side they don’t come close. Could they be “too Canadian?” By that I mean too boring, too risk adverse, too safe in how they behave, and very conservative in what they allow their employees to do or act in the workplace.

Here is how I would fix RIM: make it fun.

How do you do that? I have no idea with 17000 people. A guess? They have to let go of all the rules they have for themselves. They have to let go of their products. They have to let go of their OS. None of that means throw everything out but take away all their staff’s Blackberries and get them iPhone’s and Android powered phones. Use them. Fall in love with them like everyone else. Then find the flaws, the real flaws, not just the spec sheet ones (Do not sell me on “real multitasking” on the playbook, who the heck watches a movie AND plays a game on the same 7 inch screen?) and make the Blackberry better.

By the way you already have iCloud at RIM and I bet it works way better than iCloud will for the next 8 months. It is called BES and BBM but no one there seems to see the oppertunity there.

Disclaimer: I have never owned a Blackberry because I have never been impressed with their products.

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  1. I agree Jesse! As a former RIM employee I can tell you many things, but will share two:

    (1) I loved my experiences there because RIM was leading-edge when I worked there and I had the luxury of fun and some freedom in defining and changing my role.

    (2) When I left in several years ago, it was because of the culture. It sucked in many parts of the company. Work lots of overtime, have no fun, limit recognition to ‘standard approved practices’, and reward people who fall in line vs rock the boat positively with creative and critical thought. Too many levels of management, with too many people concerned with power and control.

    That said, I’d love to go back and help turn things around. But only if they are really ready to transform. Really. And seriously.

    Out with out-dated organizational and management models. In with people-first focused process, organization, and products. Happy employees create great products, happy customers, and yes, happy shareholders. Transparency and collaboration do too. I speak from experience, post-RIM.

  2. Well said! Boring workplace, cubicles and no sense of what the competition has to offer. I agree they need to make some significant changes to how they operate and stop releasing so many damn blackberries. Focus on a product and perfect it, we don’t need a new blackberry model every 3 months.

    Remember when the iPhone came out, people were skeptical about typing on a touchscreen and were saying that it would never overpass the blackberry because users need a qwerty for email, well just look at how many devices are coming out now that don’t have a keypad/keyboard. People with an iPhone do you hate typing on it? I think not, well maybe sometimes but people adapt!

  3. @selena – thanks for the comment. It is sad that as companies grow they loose what made them awesome. Apple had to hand itself over to the ways of Steve Jobs, now they are building a space ship! I think Mike L would build an awesome culture if legal let him 😉

    @Michael – Apple are amazing at figuring out what people want. I have no idea how they do it given all the secrecy but they manage to give consumers (not techies) things they love. RIM needs to understand it isn’t about features, its about how it functions.