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RIM: The Cutting Edge of Success

Response to:

Research in Motion: Managing Explosive Growth

By Daina Mazutis for the Richard Ivey School of Business

Growth is what we all want, its what every company is working towards and what every shareholder is betting on when he/she buys equity. RIM shows us that even world beating sales figures come with challenges.

The core of RIM’s success is its ability to anticipate the needs of consumers, needs that even buyers were unaware of, and to develop technology that meets those needs. Even more than that, the technology that Lazardis and company develop is the world’s most efficient and difficult to replicate. To date, despite the billions spent on R&D in the world’s largest telecommunications think-tanks, no comparable products have been released. The iPod is the world’s most user friendly interface, and the Nexus One is the world’s fastest consumer device. The Blackberry, however is the only encrypted push e-mail, while using the least amount of data to fully integrate all of a person’s mobile technology needs.

That competitive advantage is fleeting, and its shocking that it has existed as long as it has. The new versions including the Curve, Storm, Tour and Bold offer no significant new functionality, just an upgrade of the only model. In order to maintain the lead, RIM will not be able to just beat its head against the same old wall using larger sums of money. Another game changer is required, and required fast to satisfy the end-user and the shareholders. Rather than focusing on straight ratios that equate increases in expenditure to increases in innovation, RIM must now focus on developing a real edge that differentiates the Blackberry brand from its competitors.

The supply of talent is clearly one of RIM’s greatest challenges and massive numbers are required to satisfy the growing demand. It is simply not realistic to assume that organic growth or even traditional onboarding can double the organization’s size in a short time period without damaging either the culture, the quality of work, or both. Instead, RIM should look to build on its history and past successes with acquisitions to grow. Opportunities abound, especially as companies like Palm are being left in the wake of progress. A huge takeover like Palm would supply RIM with a sudden jolting influx of seasoned talent as well as a glut of intellectual property that has is currently in Palm’s possession. Most likely, those developments could be coupled with Blackberry code to produce new reasons for customers to be excited about the boys from Waterloo and their toys.

The bulk of the effort must be spent on the onboarding process as Palm people become RIM people. Blackberry-ing Palm-ers will be the crux of the challenge and, if successful, the edge that keeps Steve Jobs and his legions of iUsers at bay.

Categories: Cases

Waterfalls, Warren Buffet and why knowledge can’t be managed

Response to:

The Rise of Knowledge Towards Attention Management

By Davenport and Volpel

The Rise of Knowledge

Knowledge management is people management? I take issue with that statement. Knowledge is a factor of production much the same way that skills, processes, IP, and even muscle strength are factors in the production of computer chips, railroads and hamburgers.

The topic has been on the tip of my tongue for a while, though as I’ve been wrestling with a seemingly unrelated topic: what makes America “great”, what (other than war profiteering) propelled it to the top of the global heap, and what does it have to leverage itself back to the top?

Clearly, the answer to the first two questions is knowledge. Knowledge alone allowed the United States to tear the title of World’s Banker from the British, and to remain the undisputed richest country for 40+ years before the emergence of China and the financial meltdown.

Does that lead us to believe that the third answer is also knowledge? That’s where Davenport and Volpe come in. The world is getting smarter – India is producing Earth’s greatest engineers, the best doctors are German and Chinese business acumen is the envy of American industrialists. Attribute that to the spread of wealth or communications, whatever the cause, the U.S. doesn’t have a corner on the smarts market anymore. If we place ourselves in the American corner, let’s consider how to regain that competitive advantage. If we believe the paper, and managing people is managing knowledge, then we just need to start producing the world’s best managers and the world will once again become our smorgasboard.

Were Bill Gates, Warren Buffet or Steve Jobs well managed? All three of those men embody the American Dream that we are taught is the heart of what makes America great. People who struck out and became world beater by taking risks and resolving to win at all costs. Their knowledge has shaped the world and came at us not as neatly bundled packages of value, but as wild explosions of innovation that refused to be denied.

Knowledge within an organization is no different. Efficiency can be gained by directing the collection of knowledge and steering the allegorical library of smarts in a desired direction, but successful knowledge acquisition comes at us like a giant waterfall of unrelated curiosities. It is the beauty of the human mind that we can thread seemingly unrealted gems together, not as volumes to be managed, but as potentially new knowledge and idea that will emerge brand new if allowed to evolve.

That’s why the last, current and next earth-shaking innovations all came not from Billion-dollar labs, but from dusty basements and abandoned garages.

Categories: Cases

A Semester of Stoked

The end of the Winter 2010 semester is here. Today I found myself sifting through the dozens of forum posts and discussions that Ive generated for my Strategic Management and Managing Change classes. If youve been following the site at all, youll know that I tend to rant when I get on a topic, so some of those posts tend to get a bit intense. Ive picked some of my favorites and will be posting them on here over the next few days. Theres a lot of opinion in there, all of them are right of course, but feel free to disagree and comment.

Categories: Cases