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The Way of The Cheetah – What We Can Learn From the Research In Motion/Apple Rivalry

Research in Motion (RIM) co-CEO’s are stepping down. RIM stock has gone nowhere since 2008. Today, RIM’s (RIMM) market cap is $7.74B. Apple’s (AAPL) market cap: $391.88B. Which means that Apple is 50 times more valuable than RIM!

There was a time when RIM seemed on top of the world, and Apple was the challenger. There’s a lot that mid-sized challenger organizations can learn from the way that Apple approached competing with RIM.

I’ve spent the better part of my career working closely with leaders of innovative, fast-growing midsized companies and I’ve coined a term for these leaders and their companies – I call them “Cheetahs.” Of course, the Cheetah is by far the fastest land animal, clocking bursts of up to 110 MPH. Cheetah leaders do move faster, eliminating or hurtling obstacles to growth.

One thing Cheetah leaders do is overcome their existing business. In other words, they don’t let their current “success” stand in the way of their future growth.

Note the contrast between RIMM and AAPL. Then and today, Blackberry is the most important product of RIMM. According to Trefis.com, all but 1.8% of the value of the company comes from sales of Blackberries and related internet service and from cash. The story at AAPL is much different. Then, Apple was a computer company with a hot little mp3-player (iPod) business. Today, according to Trefis, fully 52.3% of the value of Apple comes from sales of iPhones, twelve percent each come from iPads and Macintosh, 4% from iTunes and 1.6% from iPod. In short, the vast majority of the value of Apple is from new products in new categories.

If you’re trying to run a Cheetah organization, where are you looking for future growth? If you’re like most of your competition, you’re looking at your existing products and markets. If this represents an exclusive focus or a hard bias, as it does in the vast majority of companies, you may be slamming on the breaks.

Go back to the reason your organization exists. Not merely to make a certain kind of product but to create a change in the world that your tribe can get excited about. Make sure your corporate brand is built around this WHY. Then as how your vision for future growth furthers this mission and enriches this role for the company.

Apple, the company that invented the personal computer to empower the individual to compete in creativity, ideas and awesomeness against giants, aimed toward a world in which Apple products complete a closed circle across all the key technology and media. The plan keeps adapting but the drive remains the same.

Why do Cheetahs run so fast? Sure, to catch dinner – and because they can. But also, because they must!