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Fixing RIM

Fixing RIM

Photograph by Matt Hurst

In the process of researching and writing books on speed, productivity, and reinvention, I have identified basic laws of business that help companies grow, remain relevant, and innovate. For years, RIM was delusional to believe these rules didn’t apply to it. To get back on the road to recovery, a good place for its new chief executive, Thorsten Heins, to start would be three of the many rules RIM flaunted.

Constant change and making lots of bets: When Howard Schultz retook the reins at Starbucks his first 18 months back saw a dizzying array of small bets, ranging from mobile payments to new store designs, the testing of wine and beer, Via instant coffee, Starbuck Petites, and new consumer products for grocery stores. Some became big hits, and others didn’t work. What’s RIM betting on?

Letting go: By the time a company owns up to the fact that they suck, they’ve sucked for a very long time.  Unlike Apple, RIM wasn’t fast enough to market with new and improved devices, it steadfastly refused to stay ahead of their customers’ rapidly changing needs and desires, and it believed the conventional wisdom that what had worked in the past would work in the future.

Everyone needs to know the strategy: What’s the rallying cry at RIM? You won’t find it on their website, and I’m betting you won’t find it inside the company. They had a breakthrough device in the late 1990s and came to believe their future was assured. Great companies make certain that everyone in the company knows the big strategic objective and their role in its achievement.

To be fair, CEO Heins hasn’t been in the job very long. But if he is to reverse RIM’s fortunes, he has to enthusiastically embrace constant change, let go of yesterday’s breadwinners, ego, and same-old-same old, and develop a BIG strategic objective that is known to everyone inside and outside the company. Time is running out.

Jason Jennings' new book, The Reinventors–How Extraordinary Companies Embrace Constant Radical Change, will debut in May.

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