Can companies innovate too much?

Well, companies can certainly innovate too little, and sometimes that is intentional, but can companies really innovate too much?  The recently appointed CEO of Research In Motion (RIM), who make Blackberry, made the interesting statement this week .. ‘We are a great innovative company, but sometimes we innovate too much while we’re building a product’.

Now, in a market where its competitors have succeeded through product, service & business model innovation, such a statement could be seen to be contrary to the prevailing wisdom in the sector, and a recipe for disaster. RIM, as we know, is a company in trouble .. by the end of last year its share price was less than 10% of its maximum in mid 2008 and so a further loss of competitiveness against the likes of Google and Apple could be very problematic.

However perhaps this is exactly what RIM need … less ‘innovation’ in the commonly mis-understood sense of a higher specified device and more focus on ‘core competency’ and what their users really need.

Many pundits have expressed opinions about what they should do next, from moving towards an app driven device to looking to sell the business to one of its bigger rivals.  However few have actually make the bold statement that RIM should focus on what it does best, which is make very good business machines that provide a reliable email and calendar application with a sturdy interface that has enough battery life for a long business day.

The new CEO has said that RIM has ‘innovation at its core’ and by following the approach above I believe that RIM is actually continuing to be innovative as we define innovation here at Innovaro/Strategos.  It would be clearly and unambiguously using its core competencies by applying them to a set of insights about its present and future consumers whilst looking to overturn the industry orthodoxy that everything must look and perform like an iPhone. So, a clear view of competitive positioning based upon competencies;  a clear view of the future both in terms of technology and lifestyles; real insight into what their target consumer segments need; and a willingness to over-turn and challenge current paradigms.  Perhaps this would not ultimately bring success but let’s be clear that this is absolutely innovation at work and in a very fundamental way.

Perhaps in the long term fruit wars the Apple will squash the Blackberry, but perhaps a truly innovative approach will help RIM regain a stronger position in the market.


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