Lessons from Blackberry & John Chen

Blackberry Logo

John Chen, a turnaround artist and current CEO of Blackberry, has a formidable task ahead of him: Make Blackberry a viable firm once again now that the luster has long since worn off. In an article in the San Jose Mercury News, Michelle Quinn provides thoughtful insights:

Silicon Valley has a predictable cycle: Companies experience periods of rapid growth and then, for most of them, a maturation period of flatter growth. For others, contracting revenues can start a tailspin of contracting ambition. Not many survive as independent companies. BlackBerry may not be a survivor. Even Chen compares BlackBerry to a patient in critical condition.

John Chen’s offers his turn-around formula:

“The first thing you do is stabilization,” he said, “which means in business getting the financials in order.” Then, “you examine what is driving you to disconnect with customers. If you weren’t disconnecting from customers, then you wouldn’t need me.”

Quinn offers, “For now, BlackBerry is focused on its core customers in government and industries like finance, banking and health care who value security and long battery life.” Here’s another take:

“I don’t envy the guy,” said Mike Levin, partner and co-founder of Consumer Intelligence Research Partners, which pegs BlackBerry’s U.S. consumer market penetration as rounding down to 0 percent. “Smartphones are more than a consumer product now. The challenge is going to be to find something distinctive that competitors don’t have or won’t be able to copy within a year.”

The world has innovated around Blackberry. Blackberry, like so many firms before it, was caught flat-footed watching its market share erode quarter after quarter for a number of years now.

Once a firm loses its luster, it’s nearly impossible to become highly desirable again. Best case, Blackberry can be niche player if John Chen can connect Blackberry as being the preferred smartphone in one or more niches.

How is your business trending? Are you growing? If you aren’t growing, you’re on the decline. That’s no way to thrive. If customers turn off and tune out–as they have at Blackberry–it’s nearly impossible to win them back.

Photo Credit: Flickr, Ian Lamont  “In 30 Minutes guides

Thought for the week:

“The middle of creating anything new can be messy & miserable. Keep moving, step at a time, & suddenly see finish line.” – Rosabeth Moss Kanter
What do you think? I welcome your comments!

Dave Gardner, Gardner & Associates Consulting http://www.gardnerandassoc.com

© 2014 Gardner & Associates Consulting  All Rights Reserved

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2 Responses to Lessons from Blackberry & John Chen

  1. olivierlehe says:

    How companies can nurture innovation and motivate their talents to bring innovations forward?

    Each company is destined to get the results it gets. What I mean by this is that poor organization, lack of solid and sustainable innovation culture lead to poor results, and more than before, to a company’s trouble or death.
    Smart business leaders shape the culture of their company to drive innovation. Success and constant positive results come from the implementation and execution of strategies, business models, structure, processes, technologies and incentive systems that encourage innovation.
    If you would like to read more about learning innovation, you can access to my blog on: http://worldofinnovations.net/2014/08/11/7-ways-to-create-a-culture-of-innovation/


  2. Dave says:

    Thanks for the comment, olivierlehe. Blackberry lost contact with its customers which have now dwindled. Current market share apparently below 1%. They have done a lot of innovation but none of it stuck with their customer base. Like a lot of tech companies, the innovation seems to have been engineering-driven rather than focused around features customers craved. This is the result.


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