10 biggest market losers of 2011

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COMMENTARY To err is human, but to destroy $300 billion in shareholder value, it helps if you're a CEO. Sure, they're human too, but when your 401(k) crashes and burns overnight, it's hard to have sympathy for the guy who was behind the wheel.

2011 was definitely a year of CEOs driving their once-iconic companies off a cliff. Some of the crashes were so spectacular, you'd think they planned it that way, sort of like a stunt crash you'd see in a movie. Except, as we discussed in "Blackberry -- how RIM destroyed a great brand," the results have been all too real.

In fact, 2011's biggest market losers somehow managed to destroy more than $300 billion of market capitalization this year alone. And who says CEOs aren't overachievers?

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What I find particularly interesting -- and not in a good way -- is that, once upon a time, nearly all these companies were leaders in their respective markets. What can all business leaders learn from that? In a hypercompetitive global market like we have today, you can't afford to sit on your laurels, not even for a year.

These days, executives need to be more fluid in their planning and more nimble in their execution than ever before. That means continuously challenging the status quo, evaluating the competitive landscape, and reacting quickly enough to give the perception of being proactive.

These days, innovation isn't usually about being first. It's about being the best and staying that way. Otherwise, you can end up like these 10 losers. Although some companies shed more in terms of share price and market cap, I chose these 10 because, in my opinion, they more or less did it to themselves. As such, they represent cautionary tales and critical lessons for every executive and business leader.

1. Kodak (EK)

CEO Antonio Perez may have brought Kodak into the digital age, but he didn't do it effectively, that's for sure. During his eight-year tenure, revenues have plummeted, the company has bled billions in red ink and its share price has declined by 97 percent. Perez failed to cut costs and turn around this relic of a company. Now, its only chance to avoid bankruptcy appears to be to find a way to monetize its considerable patent portfolio. Good luck with that. The stock is down 88 percent so far this year.

2. Research In Motion (RIMM)

Three-and-a-half years ago, RIM was on top of the world. You couldn't sit in a boardroom without four or five people checking their BlackBerry smartphones. Revenues and profits had doubled year-over-year. Since then, co-CEOs Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis couldn't have done a better job of self-destructing if they'd planned itthat way. Since Apple introduced the iPhone and Google launched the Android platform, it's been all downhill for RIM's hapless duo. When the iPad caught them completely by surprise, you'd think there'd be a leadership change. But nope, that's not going to happen at the Canadian company. Meanwhile, shares of RIM have been in a freefall, plummeting 92 percent since its heyday, and 83 percent year-to-date.

3. First Solar (FSLR)

It's hard to believe, but Forbes named First Solar America's fastest growing tech company less than a year ago. That's when the sun started to set on America's biggest solar panel maker. Indeed, the entire industry is reeling from weak demand, a glut of low-cost panels from China, and swirling controversy over ill-conceived government loans to green-tech companies that have cost taxpayers billions. After running the company for just two years, the board fired CEO Rob Gillette, citing the need for "leadership change to navigate through the industry turmoil," according to chairman and founder Michael Ahearn, who's currently serving as interim CEO. Shares of First Solar are down a whopping 83 percent from their 52-week high.