Michael Jordan and Blackberry: When a Reality Distortion Field Malfunctions

Share this:

RIM’s stock is down 13% since yesterday, when the company promoted a company insider to  CEO. In a well-run company, that’s called “succession”. In a struggling company bleeding share, it’s called “delusion”.  To add to to the insanity, the co-CEO’s loom in highly visible roles including the ironic “Head of the Innovation Committee”. The market is doing the best it can to break RIM out of its delusion. Many have written about the new CEO saying wacky things like “If we continue doing well what we’re doing, I see no problems …”. What I haven’t seen written about is the psychology behind the seemingly-bizarre actions of the company’s leaders. I attribute it to “Reality Distortion Field Failure”. Or RDFF, for you acronym-lovers.

You might have read stories about Bill Clinton and Steve Jobs being able to lull you into a ridiculous contract – or into bed, by creating a reality distortion field.  Their magnetic power to suck you into their world view is so powerful and persuasive, I’ve just signed away all my organs to Bill Clinton while writing about him.  Well, the actions of RIM’s former CEO’s seem to be what happens when you think you think you have that power, but really don’t.  It’s the same failure that made Sylvester Stallone think he was funny and start making comedies in the 90’s. It’s the same failure that made Michael Jordan try to hit fastballs and Magic Johnson host a late night talk show. The reason for it? Isolation.

When you get to the top of your field, you start to believe you are great at everything. The people around you, unless they’re your old high school buddies and can call you out on your BS, are typically less powerful. And sometimes, sycophantic.  They will reinforce your maniacal behaviors to your own detriment, fearing  excommunication – or worse, missing out on your next swingers party on the lido deck of the SS Delusional.  Unfortunately, delusion is what celebrity and power do best.


In the case of RIM, they built an amazing business. It was almost unchallenged until 2007 when the iPhone arrived. The company is the most powerful in Canada. It’s likely that the two former CEO’s might have few peers who could tell them the truth. What is the truth? The company needs an outside visionary who can salvage a dying, out of touch business, with even its corporate customers itching to leave.  Most importantly, they need to completely purge the company of the kind of people who laughed at Sly Stallone’s horrible jokes or handed a bat to Michael Jordan.

Of course, there could be an even simpler explanation – some people have trouble letting go…

Share this:


Provocative predictions & prescriptions on where innovation, economics & culture will take us. Fearless. Funny.