Research In Motion was once a small, nimble, and incredibly innovative company. Founded by a young, and ambitious entrepreneur, this high-tech startup didn’t just envision the future of mobile in its early days, it pioneered it.
But the BlackBerry, which became a world-wide phenomenon in the mid-to-late 2000s, has lost its lustre. And the RIM that we knew a decade ago doesn’t seem to exist anymore.
Jason Eckert, Dean of Technology at triOS College in Waterloo, told The Verge that RIM now has “the worst corporate culture in the world” in his opinion. He cites a fateful event in 2006, where RIM lost a long and brutal patent battle with NTP. That was an inflection point, after which lawyers “came to dominate the culture,” as Jesse Hicks of The Verge puts it.
The company’s earlier rapid growth had meant hiring a layer of lifelong managers, many of them risk-averse. Fiefdoms were carved out and protected; a degree of complacency settled in. After NTP, that complacency—especially about creating new products— was joined by an obsession with secrecy and legalistic wrangling. The environment inhibited new ideas; instead of daring to be bold, he says, employees worked in fear because, “if something goes wrong, someone has to get fired.”
Now RIM is cutting back on costs and as a result, employees are being laid off every single week. Investors are fleeing in droves—RIM shares are down more than 95% from their peak in 2008—developers are abandoning ship, and the company’s few remaining executives seem trapped in delusion: they think that their crumbling workforce is more committed to RIM than ever.
BlackBerry 10, RIM’s next-gen mobile platform, is slated to launch early next year.