You have to hand it to Nintendo’s executive team. They step up to their responsibilities and accept blame like men. Nintendo president Satoru Iwata recently addressed shareholders about the company’s decision to slash the price of its Nintendo 3DS handheld system. He acknowledged the failure, accepted the blame, and said that he would slash his salary in half. He also noted that other executives would be hit with a 20- to 30-percent salary cut.
Iwata’s actions are very Japanese and very Eastern. By Western standards, it seems unusual. A high-ranking executive admitting fault?!? That’s crazy (think Brian Fellow)!!! The whole thing reminded me of another company that has made several mistakes, but continually refuses to acknowledge them in a meaningful way. I’m talking about Research in Motion (RIM), makers of the once-dominant BlackBerry smartphones.
Once upon a time, RIM was the dominant name in smartphones. It offered — and still offers — some of the best emailing and security options on a mobile phone. However, the smartphone landscape has drastically changed thanks to the iPhone. Whether it’s for work or play, many users prefer Apple iOS and Google Android over BlackBerry for their superior multimedia capabilities. Web browsing, watching movies, listening to music, playing games, and performing big-screen work is simply better on Android or iOS than on BlackBerry OS.
RIM’s executive team has failed to quickly adapt to the dramatic changes in the smartphone space. It still offers phones with great call quality and excellent keyboards. It still offers superior email and security. Unfortunately, that’s not enough these days. The company has pinned its future on QNX, but has been comically slow to implement modern QNX features into BlackBerry OS. RIM claimed that it would make a big splash with the BlackBerry PlayBook. Instead it released a half-baked product that’s a joke compared to the Apple iPad.
Despite its glacial pace of evolution and numerous failures, RIM’s execs haven’t admitted failure the way that Iwata has. Part of the problem is that nobody is sure which CEO to blame. Another part of the problem is that having two CEOs is a galactically stupid idea. It’s also a cultural thing. RIM is a Western company with a Western culture. I don’t expect RIM CEOs Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie to publicly cut off their pinkies (metaphorically) the way that Iwata did. That said, they probably should. The 3DS launch was arguably Nintendo’s biggest mistake in the last decade, yet Iwata immediately stepped up and accepted responsibility. RIM has been flailing around for years and nobody is stepping up.
Ultimately I see one company that has made a mistake and will most likely succeed again, partially because of its executives. I also see another company that has made mistakes and will most likely never be as successful as it once was, partially because of its executives. I found the contrast amusing and wanted to share it with all of you. I’d also love to hear your thoughts on Nintendo and RIM. What do you make of their executives’ behavior? What kind of success will each company have in the future? Leave a comment and let me know (please)!