Daily Inspiration: “Every great failure was preceded by a reign of error!”


“Every great failure was preceded by a reign of error!” – Futurist Jim Carroll

I just saw the Blackberry movie – it’s pretty good, although the acting seems a bit forced and the story a bit pushed. Give the trailer a watch – and you’ll probably find it on your streaming service of choice soon.

The movie did hit home, though, in more ways than one. As I noted in my post on CEO hubris:

And it hits close to home. Google Maps tells me that my home office, where I am writing this post, is exactly 23.49 km (or 14.60 miles) from the Headquarters of Research in Motion in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. Remember them? The maker of the ubiquitous Blackberry of the early 2000s. It was the leading communications device, owning the world – until the firm spectacularly imploded and failed because of the hubris and arrogance of the two founders, Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie

It also hits home because, like many Canadians in and around the tech industry, we’ve seen this type of failure before – Nortel being the most famous. Sadly, the implosion of the organization took away a huge amount of pension investment value and personal equity.

I told the story of both organizations in a talk the other day, in a new section I’ve introduced to my slide deck, Lessons in Leadership – “What went wrong? What went right?” It’s an overview of things I’ve seen in my career with my clients on how some organizations have responded – or haven’t – to dramatic, disruptive change. A few other companies on the list of the former include, for example, DaimlerChrysler and Motorola. I’ve shared those stories here before.

In one of those posts, I wrote:

Don’t dare to presume that what you have done in the past will define your success in the future – because that is the essence of corporate stupidity.

Specifically on the Blackberry, I wrote about the dangerous assumption they made and the reign of error that followed.

Research in Motion? Maybe one day, people might use phones without physical keyboards. Apple might one day become a significant competitor? Jim Balsillie looked me in the eye and told me, straight-faced, that RIM had nothing to worry about. Oops!

The movie does a great job in portraying this fundamental mistake, and the mistakes that compounded from there. It should never have happened – but is all too common. The end of Blackberry, Nortel, Motorola, and other organizations are similar – preceded by a reign of error, fueled by hubris, overconfidence, wilfu9l blindness, territorial leadership disputes, arrogance, and more. These errors are compounded by a lack of clear insight into how their world is changing, and why they are at risk from significant, disruptive change. The result?

History is littered with the wreckage of organizations that did not step up to the plate of the speed of future trends, and who have failed to adapt to fast-paced market change. What happens to organizations like these? Why do things go wrong? There’s a long list of the reasons for failure:

  • a belief in their ‘incumbency’ – they’ve been successful for so long they do not fear any threat!

  • the invincibility syndrome – nothing will ever come along that might challenge their success!

  • arrogance and hubris, particularly at the CEO level – they simply have everything right with their formula! (They don’t)

  • a culture that does not promote shared goals, and in which each and every division is in it for themselves – promoting massive dysfunction and missed collective opportunity

  • and a failure to realize and adapt to the pace of change – simply put, they are structured for slow in the era of fast!

  • an inability to recognize their competitors are moving faster than they are – they don’t like to acknowledge their competitor’s success

  • an inability to confront the truth of what they see out in the world around them – denial runs rampant!

  • an inadequate trends radar: they simply miss the signs of what is coming next!

The list goes on. So your task today?

Avoid the reign of error. Understand what comes next – and what you need to do about it, today!


THE FUTURE BELONGS TO THOSE WHO ARE FAST features the best of the insight from Jim Carroll’s blog, in which he
covers issues related to creativity, innovation and future trends.