BlackBerry and the Innovators Dilemma


BlackBerry: the Innovator’s Dilemma in Action

BlackBerry PanAm Atari LogosBlackBerry has been in the news recently because it is exploring putting itself up for sale, in hopes of keeping some form of the once dominate company in existence. I mention this because yesterday at breakfast with conversion optimization expert Brian Massey the topic came up of testing, optimizing and improving business performance. I had mentioned my experiences with BlackBerry when they were a client of mine, and how in my opinion BlackBerry had allowed itself to be beaten by the competition because it had not kept up with innovation and testing.

To my way of thinking, the fastest way to fall behind in business, or personal life for that matter, is to stick with the status quo. Doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results is the definition of insanity. Keeping only with the tried-and-true, not testing and learning and growing from success and from failure equals the surest way to fail.

The Innovator’s Dilemma and Gurus for Growth

This observation was well documented in Clayton Christensen’s seminal book The Innovators Dilemma.

The Innovator's Dilemma bookIn his book, Christensen suggests companies (and people) must innovate, test and optimize to stay current and in essence maintain market share.

As documented in the book, The Innovator’s Dilemma:

“While decades of researchers have struggled to understand why even the best companies almost inevitably fail, Christensen shows how most companies miss out on new waves of innovation.  His answer is surprising and almost paradoxic: it is actually the same practices that lead the business to be successful in the first place that eventually can also result in their eventual demise.”

To summarize; Innovation, testing, optimizing, trying and failing and trying again are the best ways to keep a company (and its bottom line) strong.

By inference then, any firm that advocates testing, optimization and innovation will have a better chance at success than competitors that don’t, all else being equal. Which means those in a firm who are proponents of conversion rate optimizing, A/B testing and related forms of innovation are helping the company to be successful, and thus can be considered gurus of growth.

BlackBerry, Testing and Innovation

Does the latest BlackBerry Z10 phone look familiar? It should. It looks very much like the non-BlackBerry mobile phone you probably have been carrying around with you for the past three or four years now.

BlackBerry Z10
BlackBerry Z10

Who knows what might have happened if in 2008 instead of Steve Jobs introducing the 8 Gig iPhone for $199 it was the CEO of RIM announcing an iPhone-like new RIM mobile technology (BlackBerry was formerly known as RIM).

What if this had been a BlackBerry?
What if this had been a BlackBerry?

The Rise and Fall of BlackBerry

The rise and fall of BlackBerry has been well documented, as shown for example in this chart provided by Gartner, IDC. You can clearly see the market share increase and then decrease for BlackBerry (RIM) from 2008 through 2012 as Apple, Samsung and the rest of the innovators took a huge bite out of RIM market share.

RIM Market Share as documented by Gartner IDC
RIM Market Share as documented by Gartner IDC
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Which brings me back to the topic of testing and optimization.

Conversion Optimization is the Key to Success

Conversion optimization and A/B testing of websites, apps and related tools are crucial to firms who want to be successful.  As I mentioned in my article eCommerce ROI: Why Usability ALWAYS Beats Advertising, testing and optimization of conversion will beat all other forms of advertising or marketing hands down, time after time after time.

In looking at the experience of the rise and fall of BlackBerry (or Atari, or PanAm, or any number of once major but now defunct Brands) the lesson is clear. Companies (and the people who make up companies) should continue to learn and grow by testing, optimizing and innovating. It is the best way to ensure an enduring company, because it continually provides the best possible products and services people will want to buy and use over and over again.