On Thursday, January 19, 2012, another giant fell. Kodak, one of America’s best known brands, joined a growing list of other iconic brands (American Airlines, Borders and Blockbuster) that couldn’t compete in today’s changing world. AA was done in by high labor costs, Borders by internet competition, and Blockbuster by Netflix. Digital cameras and high quality home printers/cheap online printing spelled doom for Kodak. All of them should have seen it coming, especially Kodak. It’s not as if the move to digital photography was a big surprise that happened overnight. In 1999, Americans bought more than 800 million rolls of film. This year, the number will be less than 50 million.
Robert Burley, an associate professor at Toronto’s Ryerson University, describes Kodak as a “company stuck in time” (from Bloomberg.com, January 19).
Kodak’s initial response to the digital onslaught was Kodak brand digital cameras (technology they pioneered and could have dominated). However, a flood of cheap digital cameras, followed shortly thereafter by cell phones, smart phones and tablets with built-in cameras, short-circuited that strategy. Today, they are trying to penetrate the highly competitive world of inkjet printers, dominated by Hewlett Packard, Epson, etc. Good luck. To keep the doors open, Kodak has been selling what to me is any company’s most valuable asset—intellectual property (patents). It wasn’t enough, so now they are counting on a bankruptcy judge to save them. Isn’t that what leaders are for?
Everything in this world is changing: customer preferences are changing, technology is changing, and demographics are changing. Where will radio be when cars have easy access to the internet? Who can even guess what the ultimate impact of Cloud Computing will be? The birthrate in America will not sustain our traditional population distributions of race and age—what does that mean to the future of your organization? Pastor, where are the twenties—still in your church or down the street in a more formal liturgical church? Is your business printing books? What are you going to do when people go to Barnes and Noble and print their own books?
Any organization that gets “stuck in time” is headed for trouble. What got you to where you are is not likely to keep you there. Leader, it is your job to move your organization into the future, not sustain it in the past. You can lead change or play catch up. Don’t wait until it is too late—get started today!
[The January scorecard for my five New Year’s Resolutions is one A, one B, two C’s, and one Incomplete. How are you doing?]
© Copyright 2012 by Dick Wells, The Hard Lessons Company
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"The best way to lead people into the future is to connect with them deeply in the present."
Kouzes & Posner