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Sonos CEO on Lessons from BlackBerry’s Rise and Fall

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Complacency can be a company’s downfall, says Sonos CEO Patrick Spence. “Some people are explorers, not builders, who make the products better and better incrementally – and you have to have both in your organization,” he says. “You have to protect the exploration efforts. I spend a lot of time protecting those innovation efforts at Sonos.”

on this week Most innovative companies podcast, Spence describes why organizations should embrace innovation, even when they don’t have to. “I have the experience that I’ve been through and put my blood, sweat, and tears into 14 years of BlackBerry building and seeing what happens if you don’t keep pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone,” Spence says.

“You have to be on your guard and you have to be aware of what’s happening in the competitive dynamics, but you also have to be careful not to react alone,” he says. “You have to know who you are, which customers you serve, where your strengths lie, and play against them.”

That’s the proactive energy he’s brought to Sonos, now a $2.5 billion publicly traded company, since 2012, including a willingness to embrace consistent discomfort and “get out of the house,” launch new products, and form partnerships. going with brands like Audi and Ikea, which, as he puts it, made people at Sonos “internally uncomfortable.”

Every innovator faces the same dilemma: know when to change and move forward instead of staying on track. When finances are good or it seems like easy times are ahead, it often feels more comfortable to avoid what may seem like “unnecessary” innovation.

Spence began his career at what he calls a “small Canadian company” called Rim, and over the course of 14 years was part of the team that launched the BlackBerry and built an $80 billion global company that employed 17,000 people. . Fast-forward to today, however, and that’s all gone.

“We started to rest on our laurels to some extent,” Spence says. Both the brand and the company were strong, but BlackBerry got caught up in trying to compete with products from a hardware standpoint — including the launch of its first touchscreen product, the Storm — and later hesitated when it came to going wide with its brand. software, to own BlackBerry Messenger.

“We encountered a classic innovator’s dilemma, where half of the company wanted to own BlackBerry Messenger to sell more hardware, and the other half recognized that no, this is an opportunity to change and become the standard and leader in the field. of instant messaging and communication. ‘ says Spen.

His experience at BlackBerry has clearly informed a lot about what he does at Sonos, which is why, even as Sonos has successfully positioned itself as the leading home audio experience company, he’s now pushing for further innovation.

Listen to the episode for the full interview.

You can listen and subscribe to Most innovative companies On Apple Podcasts, stitcher, Spotifyor wherever you get your podcasts from.

James Vincent is the guest host of londonbusinessblog.com’s Most Innovative Companies podcasting. He is also a partner and CEO of FNDR, where he helped the founders of some of the world’s largest companies, including Airbnb and Snap, use the power of stories to give voice to their vision. For FNDR and for over a decade, Vincent worked with Steve Jobs to build Apple’s story.

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