Do you embrace the competition or shut it out?

We had an interesting peak inside the Microsoft culture recently through an article on the WSJ “Forbidden Fruit: Microsoft Workers Hide Their iPhones

Here is a summary of what happened:

“The perils of being an iPhone user at Microsoft were on display last September. At an all- company meeting in a Seattle sports stadium, one hapless employee used his iPhone to snap photos of Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer. Mr. Ballmer snatched the iPhone out of the employee’s hands, placed it on the ground and pretended to stomp on it in front of thousands of Microsoft workers, according to people present.”

As a result we had some interesting discussions at our team meeting yesterday, particularly around the message being sent to employees. Essentially the message is “Don’t use competitor products even though they maybe better than ours” In fact ignore competitive products and focus on our own products even though the don’t deliver as much value.

It may be a bitter pill to swallow but by embracing competitive products it does allow for a deeper level of insight into how to create something event better. Without understanding the customer’s experience with competitors companies become myopic and cannot create a better vision of the future.

How could Microsoft’s CEO have handed this differently? What was his goal?

One response to “Do you embrace the competition or shut it out?

  1. I found the WSJ article very interesting too. There is something wrong about shaming employees who acknowledge the realities of the marketplace.

    It seems like the CEO was saying “join me in the Microsoft fantasy where everything we do is great.”

    Too many of Microsoft’s products are deeply flawed. My impression is that they have always been rather inwardly focused. Maybe afflicted with NIH syndrome (not invented here).

    Yes, we should support our companies when possible. However, “supporting” our company when our products are inadequate will only serve to further weaken our us and do harm to both customers and investors.

    Advice to Steve Balmore? Rather than shame employees, acknowledge the competitor’s strengths and inspire employees to better meet customer needs .

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