The once-mammoth, Eastman Kodak Company, is now threatened with extinction. This month the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
I worked at Kodak in its heyday in the late 1970s to mid-1980s. I was in the research and development labs in Rochester, New York. At that time, a million dollars a day went into R&D. This investment paid off with a new or improved product or process every three days. This approach kept King Kodak constantly on the cutting edge.
Sadly, in spite of Kodaks 132-year run, even in its heyday, I could see signs of the fat-and-happy blindness evolving. As the concept and the technology of digital imaging began to emerge, tragically, Kodak somehow refused to believe its eyes. Ironic for a company that relied on images for its lifeblood. More than once, I encountered leadership that flatly stated there was no way possible for digital imaging ever to replace wet chemistry film. That attitude laid the groundwork for the history we have witnessed. By the time Kodak woke up to the realities of the technological landscape, it was too late. In spite of valiant efforts to turn the battleship, the company had run out of time, and it was too far behind the curve.
Kodak illustrates for us the truism that businesses must never assume things will remain the same. Being fat and happy can feel good, but it is bad. Complacency and groupthink collude to destruction.
Businesses today must never assume things will always be the same. Study your landscape, capture the trends, remain self-alert, seek alternate viewpoints, constantly innovate, and always be willing to change. After all, as some have wisely observed: change is the only constant.
But how do you imagine a future you cant imagine? Well, youd better learn quickly because the ones that do will be the future success stories. And the ones that dont, wont be here.