Why no individual is worth over $1 million

Roger Martin: Defying RIMs Critics

He also says he was forever urging RIM to consider the importance of the browser experience on the BlackBerry, which was seen as less than stellar.

Mr. Lazaridis in particular was obsessed with his devices being efficient in their use of wireless networks, while more powerful smartphones coming on the market gobbled up huge chunks of bandwidth.

“People were saying we can’t make powerful phones like Apple. Yes, we can, but we couldn’t believe consumers would put up with that kind of battery inefficiency and that kind of network inefficiency.”

Mr. Lazaridis earned over $5 million in compensation in 2011. It would make you think that Blackberry is still growing like crazy. It would make you think that management had made all the right moves, that the competition was struggling. Unfortunately, 2011 was the exact opposite for Blackberry.

The problems start with the quote that I put above here. Lazaridis was worried about battery life and not using bandwidth? Are there no qualified market researchers at RIM?

It also reminds me of a quote that I can’t quite place, although I think it was a lead researcher at Xerox PARC: “Design as though transistors are free.” he would tell his team. Sure enough, in only a few years, the transistors were so cheap they were practically free. If Lazaridis was a visionary leader, he would be telling his team, “Design as though bandwidth is free”, because in a few years, it will be!

This all brings me to compensation of executives. I’ve worked with my fair share of entrepreneurs. As a conservative introvert, they still amaze me with their risk taking, optimism and hard-work. However, even the best was not worth more than $1 million. It’s because no individual ever adds that much value to an enterprise.

Yes, I’m sure you are already mouthing the name “Steve Jobs”, but even he wasn’t. I bet there were over a hundred people at Apple in 1997 who knew what was wrong and how to fix it (maybe even Jonathan Ive, who was there since ‘92). Unfortunately, many employees are underused and ignored. Going back to RIM, there was a well-publicized e-mail from a senior employee six months ago laying out the company’s problems:

Senior RIM exec tells all as company crumbles around him

Note: I originally wrote this in 2012. I love my thought, “bandwidth will be practically free”…and here we are.



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