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NBA exec resigns, bemoans iPhone's destruction of BlackBerry

In a 7,000-word treatise about life, business and disruption, the Philadelphia 76ers' Sam Hinkie mentions he's hurt by BlackBerry's demise.

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.


In Sixers management, how many still use BlackBerrys?

Philadelphia 76ers/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

When it comes to quitting a job, everyone has their own style.

It's tempting to keep it short, leaving all the things you'd really like to say for another time, place and medium.

This is not the route chosen by Sam Hinkie, the outgoing Philadelphia 76ers' general manager and president of basketball operations.

On Wednesday, he reportedly sent team owners a 7,000-word treatise, which was obtained by ESPN. It reads at times like a sermon about the underappreciated excellence of Sam Hinkie.

The team hasn't, you see, enjoyed the finest of fortunes. In fact, it has the worst record in basketball, which can be attributed to some bad fortune, but only some. However, Hinkie implies in this letter that he placed his light "directly under a bushel" for strategic reasons.

The 76ers didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Part of Hinkie's self-exculpation is a section on "A reverence for disruption." This is a word very familiar in tech circles.

Hinkie, who'd been in his position for three years, tries to explain that a modern business organization isn't about professionalism. It's about being Silicon Valley-like, finding a completely new way of doing things.

One of his prime examples of disruption was one with which you'll be familiar.

"I still miss Blackberry's keyboard," he wrote. "But the 2007 iPhone debut rendered it nearly obsolete to all but a few of us curmudgeons."

The pain in this sentence is clearly considerable. There are those, such as President Obama and Google's Eric Schmidt, who cling to BlackBerrys despite the iPhone's march all over its prostrate body.

While BlackBerry insists it has a future, the evidence of eyes, ears and minds suggests it's not a rosy one. Did it not embrace a disruptive spirit?

Hinkie clearly did. How else can one explain another of his examples of disruption from the letter?

"New Zealand's flightless bird the moa (measuring in at 10 ft, 400 lbs.) had the life tramping around the South Island for a great long run; then the first Māori explorers washed ashore in canoes, and that was that," he wrote.

The reverence for disruption can be oddly myopic.

Instead of preaching it as a theory, perhaps it's best to practice it in ways that others then describe as disruptive.

The point about the iPhone isn't that Steve Jobs took one look at the BlackBerry and exclaimed: "Let's disrupt that, people!"

He looked at people and thought: "What kind of phone would make them really happy?"

It's worth reading the whole of Hinkie's letter to see how someone who thinks of himself as a modern business thinker justifies his thinking and needs so many words to do it.

But if you're really intending to be disruptive, it's always worth thinking about your customers first.

It's quite surprising how far that can take you.