updated 10:20 am EDT, Fri June 17, 2011
RIM tip pins failures on insular culture
A staffer at RIM's Waterloo headquarters gave a close look into what might be causing the mounting BlackBerry problems at the company. The anonymous tipster portrayed it as an inherent inability to understand the non-business market that extends up to the two co-CEOs. The company has fooled itself into believing its engineering- and enterprise-heavy focus have translated over to home users, SAI understood.
"The problem is that they brim with hubris [at RIM] regarding their success in the corporate market and are culturally blind to the gaping holes in their armour regarding consumer," the source explained. "They honestly think they understand consumer product, business, mentality, marketing -- but they really don't."
Much of the problem comes from an overly insular culture, he continued. Many of those choosing BlackBerry colors and other design traits are "50-something year old grey-beard engineers" from near southern Ontario who believe that being a parent qualifies them to make youth-oriented design decisions. Staff from outside of Ontario are considered strangers. Concerns existed over co-chief Jim Balsillie taking over the marketing lead since it was that lack of marketing dictated by the executive that created the problem.
The company was also locked in the same obsession with feature checklists that led many companies to struggle against Apple. RIM focuses on issues like security as bullet points but not the important subjective elements, such as the overall user experience.
Many of the staff were professional and motivated; the company wasn't out of contention, the insider said. The challenges, however, were deep ones that the company so far refused to acknowledge.
The endemic conditions are unusually close to those plaguing Nokia before Stephen Elop began to restructure the company. Until the Canadian shifted focus, Nokia was at times notorious for preferring Finnish employees. The company also deliberately ignored the iPhone and assumed that Nokia's existing practices would beat Apple. A change of CEOs, like that called for at RIM, not only see the company more directly acknowledge competitors like Apple and Google but encourage employees to try them to see what features they were missing.