For 18 months now, I’ve been ripping Blackberry on this blog. Just yesterday and I mocking their announcement that we’re going to be blown away by the new phones they will be releasing. As I told my friend that I’ve heard that before, he asked me an excellent question.
He asked, “Doug, what would Blackberry need to do or say for you to compliment them on their actions?”
My first thought was probably nothing. I realized that wasn’t fair, or true. Blackberry still endears very positive feelings from many. In many ways they remind me of Apple when Steve Jobs returned. While I highly doubt Blackberry will turn it around, I took my friend challenge and wrote the letter that I’d like to see Blackberry’s CEO, Thorsten Heins, share (Thorsten, feel free to use):
We screwed up, and on behalf of the board and executive management team I apologize.
You see, we forgot who we were. No, strike that. The truth is we never really knew who we were. We got so successful, so fast, we never had to figure that out.
Do you remember when you saw your first Blackberry? You probably laughed, thought was an ugly, cumbersome pager, and wondered who in the world would ever pay a monthly fee to get their email. Heck, many of you probably didn’t even have email accounts when the first Blackberry came out.
But, boy did we delight high volume email users and “intelligence” workers. We freed you from your desks. We made the 15 minutes between meetings productive. We turned libraries into communication centers (if you know what I mean).
We were engineers and innovators and we built a company. Even more, we built a brand. We became rock stars. We could do no wrong. We created a whole new product category – the smartphone. And, we thought we owned the category.
It was a great story. Unfortunately, the feeling that we owned the category turned into feeling that we were entitled to own the category. It’s not really that we lost sight of what was happening in the market, or how our customers were changing; in actuality we never paid attention. We didn’t need to.
It’s easy to blame our problems on the introduction of the iPhone, but that would be lazy. The problem is that we forgot that innovation isn’t a one-time event, and successful innovation isn’t just pumping out new versions or introducing things that don’t matter. We learned that innovation certainly isn’t copying others (sorry, Apple).
Here’s what we’re going to do about it:
- We’re going back to our very first principles that started the movement. We are going to be engineers and innovates, not gurus.
- We’re going to stop touting our products. Our customers and fans will speak for us.
- We’re going to stop competing. This is what caused us to make all the mistakes I’m apologizing for. Instead, we’re going to focus on wowing and amazing our best customers. This means that many of you may be confused or disappointed by what we develop – that’s okay; we learned that trying to be all things to all people is bad for your stock price.
- Last, and most importantly, we’re going to focus on creating value again. We’re going to really focus on our best customers and biggest fans. We’re going to ask – and answer – what problems, challenges or desire do they have that we are uniquely capable of solving. This means that we’re going to have to accept that we’re a smaller company. We’re going to reengage with our startup roots and look to build and create a brand new category. I can’t tell you where that journey will go, or end. I know that many currently with us will not stay, and while unfortunate, it is certainly understood.
I hope you’ll join us.