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2. NEVER UNDERESTIMATE A FRESH SET OF EYES
There's a chance, of course, that embracing change is simply not part of RIM's DNA. The Verge published an article earlier this year that described Lazaridis' product development strategy as "incremental." The lifelong engineer believed that changes made to the BlackBerry portfolio should happen slowly and subtly, over time. Introducing major changes could leave RIM's traditional user base feeling confused and overwhelmed, he thought, according to the article. Minor improvements ensured a more familiar, comfortable feel.
But, according to Bill Crittendon, professor of International Business and Strategy at Northeastern University, this baby-steps approach leaves a company open to the possibility of being overtaken by those making larger, more drastic leaps in the R&D lab.
"The issue of incremental change isn't enough," Crittendon told CRN. "Those kinds of things will take you so far, but you are at risk of someone leap-frogging you with a new approach."
Lazaridis and Balsillie, the original proponents of this incremental design strategy, stepped down in January, meaning there could be an opportunity for RIM's new CEO, Thorsten Heins, to turn things around by sparking larger, more frequent changes to the BlackBerry brand. But Crittendon isn't convinced Heins, who had been a part of RIM's corporate culture for four years prior to his appointment, will be able to drive such a change.
"When they named him, No. 1, you're naming a CEO from within, and that comes with risks," he explained. "Because, is that person going to understand the need for change? And [Heins'] comments, right from the get-go, suggested that he did not recognize a need for change."
Heins had said in a RIM-hosted conference call announcing his appointment that no "seismic" changes were needed, and that he looked optimistically toward the future.
The new CEO expressed a drastically different sentiment later in the year. In June, after disclosing a quarterly loss of $518 million, Heins stressed he was doing everything in his power to slash RIM's operational costs and make it a leaner organization. A significant reduction of its workforce, which will eliminate nearly 5,000 people throughout the course of the year, was unfortunately "necessary" to move forward, he said.
RIM's new leader also has emphasized the need for a revamped marketing strategy, brought on a new chief marketing officer, and acknowledged the role the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend has played in its decline.
Still, RIM's hope for adopting a completely new line of strategic thinking may have rested much more safely in the hands of an outsider, Crittendon said. Keeping all the decision-making power in the hands of an executive that has been "groomed" from within RIM's corporate culture -- especially at a time where change is crucial to staying alive -- could be a dangerous move, perpetuating the very rigidity of thinking that brought RIM to where it is in the first place.