October 2012
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Day October 1, 2012

Reverting to the mean

Quarterly financial data is often a lagging indicator of strategic success. RIM’s vital signs were exceptionally strong up until early 2011. Consider the following graph showing RIM’s device growth.

Using language commonly heard among analysts, one would say that the company was “reverting to the mean” and growing nearly in-line with the market. In other words, exceptional growth was over but continuing growth was likely. The company was returning to something “normal.”

However, keen observers of the market would have been hard pressed to find any reason for justifying that performance. Seen through a disruptive lens, it was evident as early as 2008 that RIM’s strategy was not sustainable. The company had a very weak smartphone product relative to emergent iOS and Android ecosystems. And yet, the company continued to prosper for nearly three years, through 2008, 2009 and 2010. Those shorting the stock during this period would have been unrewarded.

But then in early 2011 it fell off a cliff.