Nothing Lasts Forever and Other Lessons from Blackberry vs. Apple

Posted April 9, 2012 by Marcy Twete in Career Moves
The mark of truly phenomenal technology is a user saying, “I can’t remember a time without it!” Steve Jobs can rest proud of his achievements with the iPhone, then, as it’s revolutionized the way the world views its phones….or texts….or photos….or mobile surfing. It may be difficult for many of us to remember a time without our iPhones, but you see, that time wasn’t so long ago. It’s been less than 5 years since the first iPhone hit the market. But our memories are short. Just five years ago, the majority of then “smart phone” users were attached at the hip to their Blackberry roller wheels and wired computer syncing.

Blackberry has learned the lesson, one would think. Nothing lasts forever. If you’d asked any business person in 2004 what might happen in the smartphone market, no one could have predicted that Blackberry wouldn’t remain at the top indefinitely. Adam Thierer, in his recent article for Forbes reminds us that the Blackberry (or maybe its popular nickname, CrackBerry) “was well on its way to becoming a generic trademark, like Kleenex or Band-Aid, that would seemingly forever be associated with its entire sector.” Now, Blackberry is scrambling to remain relevant in a iPhone and Android cluttered world. Rather than technologically innovative, it’s become known as the phone some businesses require you to carry – in addition to your other smartphone, of course.

What’s the lesson here in Blackberry vs. Apple? Is it as simple as David vs. Goliath? Not quite.

  • Your 10-year plan might be pointless. It’s nice to think about the future, even formulate a strong plan to reach our goals. But at the end of the day, we don’t know what lies ahead. Just like Blackberry could not have predicted this iPhone invasion, you cannot predict huge technological or logistical changes in your career or industry.
  • Just keep doing what you’re doing…doesn’t work anymore. Blackberry made a cardinal mistake in its process. It didn’t try to compete. It tried to set itself apart by remaining static, steady, and incrementally improving upon its previously successful models. Sometimes, we’re inclined to think this in our own careers. If we just keep working hard, plugging away, doing what we’re doing, eventually all of our hard work and dedication will pay off. Not so. Those who excel are the innovators, the change agents, and those who are wiling to take risks to get ahead. Do that!
  • Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Here sits Blackberry. What do they manufacture? Blackberries. Next to them sits Apple. What do they manufacture? Phones. Mobile music devices. Computers. Software. And the ever famous iPad. They know that the fate of the iPhone five years from now could be the same fate as the Blackberry in 2007. So they’re hedging their bets in multiple areas, not just one. Do the same in your career. Focus your time on multiple projects instead of just one. Network outside your company even if you plan to stay there long term. You never know what can happen, and you have to plan for the changes you’ll never be able to predict.

Nothing lasts forever, friends, not even your current career. Be willing to be flexible and look into the future….but not too far!

About the Author

Marcy Twete

Marcy Twete is a career fundraiser turned corporate responsibility executive, a career and networking expert and the author of the book "You Know Everybody! A Career Girl’s Guide to Building a Network That Works."