Sped up change: Blackberry, Crackberry, gone?

Blackberry, the phonemaker that popularized smartphones, may put itself up for sale. It has gone from a superstar to a has-been in less than a decade. Its share price has fallen from a peak of US$140 in 2008 to around $10 now. It was severely disrupted by Apple and other smartphone makers. I am one of those who migrated from obsessing over my Blackberry at the dinner table to obsessing over my iPhone at the dinner table – I don’t miss it one bit.

This had me wondering what it means to live in a fast changing world, where loyalties are fickle and preferences turn on a dime. I had a bit of time at the airport in Taranaki. This blog is asking those questions out loud and does not have fully formed answers. I want your views.

Blackberry share price (from Yahoo!Finance)

Blackberry’s fall from grace is Joseph Schumpeter’s “creative destruction” in action.

I term it ‘sped up change’ when I speak to boards and SMEs. The latest recession was cathartic in some ways, washing away many dinosaurs in business. Audiences are receptive to this message. But what should you do?

“Things are changing at an accelerating accelerating pace”

– said Edie Weiner – a NY based futurist, at the Institute of Director’s conference earlier this year.  She said the second accelerating is not a mistake. Watch her at a Tedx event on youtube below. Don’t listen to her last bit about not listening to economists 😉

Edie Weiner: Not recession but transformation (at TEDxMidwest)

I saw the following interesting chart on an Economist newspaper blog. It shows that it took around 20 years for home computers to reach half of US households, but internet took just over 10 and smartphones around 7.  Each technology is becoming embedded in our lives more quickly.

Speed of technology adoption in the US (from Economist blog)

This has real implications for policy makers, businesses and workers, because:

  1. Each new technology is spreading faster than previously. So, there is little room for complacency to keep doing things the same old way.
  2. Looking back to predict the future will not work, because disruptive change will be more frequent. Easy to be Blackberry. The mantra is to be agile and nimble.
  3. Many of the new technologies are allowing greater customization rather than standardization. I wonder if this heralds a shift in industrialisation?

Change is the only constant. But as it gets faster, do we need to think about policy, business and skills in a different mindset? Why then do we still teach kids the same old way? Why are regulations reactionary? Why do business and demographic projections draw straight lines?

Plane to catch, but post your thoughts and links to relevant papers in the comments.

PS. Robert MacCulloch will give a lecture titled “Why do governments regulate” on 17 Sep at the Auckland Business School. Looks excellent and partly answers one of my questions.

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  • Kathryn Maloney

    The “speed of technology adoption” chart from the Economist is interesting but it doesn’t show price factor. Surely that is a factor to be considered regarding how quickly a new technology is adopted. For example, I bought my first cellphone quite some time after they were initially brought into the market, simply because they were unaffordable to me for many years. However, my first smart phone came free with a mobile telcoms package. Likewise, radios have always been cheaper than TVs.

    • MillAhab

      Interesting concept – the proportion of the average disposable income that the average incarnation of each of these goods to purchase at various intervals after they have first been introduced would be interesting.
      From a strategic planning perspective Blackberry is a very interesting example of how traditional corporate planning cycles are becoming redundant. I.e. no use having a 3-5 year strategy if the world has completely shifted in the interim