The Importance of Having Local Savvy

Updated: Nov 10, 2020

Blackberry dominated the smartphone market in the mid-to-late 2000s. With a 50 percent market share in the United States, and 20 percent globally, prospects looked good for the Canadian based company. Many even nicknamed their product the “crackberry” because of its massive consumer demand. But their good fortune didn’t last; Blackberry’s total market share today sits at 0 percent.

The cause for Blackberry’s fall? The smartphone industry changed, and the company didn’t change with it. Blackberry wrongly assumed that their consumers were focused on having the very best of the bare minimum a smartphone could offer; focusing solely on in-house messaging, email, and calendar apps. Apple and Google, on the other hand, were quick to analyze their smartphone consumers and provide them with what they wanted in a smartphone; countless personal productivity and entertainment options. Apple and Google had what Blackberry lacked – local savvy.

Why Local Savvy Matters

Akira Mitsumasu, VP of global marketing at Japan Airlines, said, “Having local knowledge and understanding of how to fit into that value ecosystem is essential to stay relevant.” Local knowledge and understanding of a company’s place and environment save leaders time and resources that might otherwise be wasted on products and research that won’t sell. But maintaining focus on the customers is only the first step. Leaders must also be able to implement their ideas and knowledge within the firm and be prepared to bounce back when difficulties arise. Had the leaders of Blackberry been more focused on their customers, able to implement their ideas companywide, and prepared to bounce back after setbacks, they might be in a better place than they are today.

Skills for Local Savvy

Customer Focus

Having a customer focus means understanding the customer and the environment in which they live. Effective leaders must listen and react to the wants and needs of those who will be purchasing their products and services. Without a customer focus, sales will decline, and competitors will quickly step in to bring customers what they want. Maintaining a customer focus requires anticipating and acting on evolving customer demands. This can often be done through market analysis and product testing, followed by targeted services and corresponding product changes and promotions.


Influence is about actively building and sharing expertise across different individuals and teams within the organization. Without the ability to impact coworkers and employees, progress is often slow or in the wrong direction. For leaders to exert influence, they should leverage their expertise to help others deliver valuable solutions, remember the needs of those they are seeking to influence, be assertive but not aggressive, and give back when possible.


Resilience is what enables leaders to get through the obstacles and challenges that stand in their way.  It means having the skills to bounce back from difficulties and manage constant change. Without resilience, leaders won’t reach their full potential, especially when faced with the added challenges of a global environment. For leaders to build resilience, they must maintain their own physical and mental health, become deliberate about change, develop goals, and take decisive action.


Maintaining focus and direction in life and in business can be tricky. As with Blackberry, it can be difficult to anticipate changing markets and consumer preferences. And with many outlets and influences, it can be hard to concentrate on the specific environment individuals and leaders are in. Taking the time and effort to regularly refocus, build influence within professional organizations, and work through challenges is worth the effort.

To explore more about how leaders can improve their ability to work well in their specific environment, read the articles below.

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