Losing the Signal: The Untold Story Behind the Extraordinary Rise and Spectacular Fall of Blackberry Hardcover – May 26 2015
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"In the tech industry, they say that you learn more from a failure than from a hit. Well, if that's true, Losing the Signal will give you a post-doctoral education. Reading the inside story of the BlackBerry's helpless flameout is like watching any other train wreck: You're horrified, but you can't look away."
--David Pogue, Author of POGUE'S BASICS and founder of Yahootech.com "In LOSING THE SIGNAL, Jacquie McNish and Sean Silcoff tell the harrowing and riveting story of how we lost the connection to the Blackberry, a communication device so innovative and addictive that it was known, among aficionados, as a Crackberry. It's a tale of rivalries, jealousies and missed opportunities. You won't be able to put it down."
--William Cohan, author of HOUSE OF CARDS: A Tale of Hubris and Wretched Excess on Wall Street and MONEY AND POWER: How Goldman Sachs Came to Rule the World
About the Author
Jacquie McNish is a senior writer with the Globe and Mail and before that the Wall Street Journal. She has won seven National Newspaper Awards and is the author of several bestselling books, two of which won the National Business Book Award. She lives in Toronto with her husband and two sons.
Sean Silcoff is a business writer with the Globe and Mail and before that the National Post and Canadian Business magazine. He is a two-time National Newspaper Award winner. He lives near Ottawa with his wife and three children."
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RIM rode technology disruption and created a company with $20 billion/year in revenue only to see it disappear by being disrupted themselves.
Lots of lessons here.
1) Even though the CEOs were reading the "Innovators Dilemma" they still had little perspective on how rapid disruption would happen to them. And even less of an understanding what to do about it. (The attempt to integrate the QNX software into existing products is a cautionary tale of technical debt, refactoring and plain bad engineering management.) The iPhone in 2007 should have been a wake-up call to both CEOs. Yet they both fell prey to the classic "disruption always looks like a toy to the incumbents" mistake.
2) The company grew past the management skills of the founders. The insular nature of the founders, the Canadian entrepreneurial ecosystem, founder hubris and a feckless board ended any potential of a positive intervention. It took a complete meltdown to get the board to act.
3) Mike Lazaridis, the technical CEO, fell prey to the "shiny object" syndrome. He discovered new technology (QNX) that he thought obsoleted the current software that drove the Blackberry handsets (Java). But instead of figuring out how to finesse the transition, he literally abandoned the existing development team (and revenue). A great example of how not to manage a technology transition.
3) Dealing with major platform disruption usually takes radical structural changes, not new product features. The story unfolds as a slow motion car crash as the CEOs waited, way, way too long to recognize, let alone deal with it. There's a reason that turnaround CEO's downsize companies and focus on what's important. If you're the founder it's almost impossible to get rid of your favorite projects.
Only quibble others have noted. The book barely mentions the changes Heins made, and almost nothing about Chens strategy.
A great business book.
So much research and details: it's just amazing. I'm a HUGE BlackBerry fan: at the early stages of this book I was swelled with pride at what BlackBerry had accomplished (I really didn't know they were THAT powerful) and then you kind of lose a bit of respect to the founders when you see how they handled situations. But I digress, or maybe not, the book is so well written that it makes you feel everything going on.
Moreover, beyond BlackBerry, it helps you understand the mobile world and why it is what it is today.
It's one of the very enlightening books I've read lately.