The Kodak bankruptcy, brought to you by…Kodak
By Paul Reali
All nuance considered, the Kodak empire was built on film. The company’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization has no one cause, but if there was one primary driver, it was the rise of digital photography and the end of film, and Kodak’s inability to adapt to that change.
Here’s the part of the story you probably don’t know. The digital camera, the ultimate cause of Kodak’s decline, was invented by Kodak.
Now, given the nature of technological invention, it is likely that some other company would have invented the first digital camera, but let’s stay with this line for a moment, and say that by inventing the digital camera, Kodak brought about its own decline.
Well, no and yes.
Kodak did bring about its own decline, but not because of the invention of the digital camera. Kodak was the instrument of its own destruction because it clung too fast to the business of film. It was not an either/or decision: it was a yes/and. Kodak’s path forward was to embrace both worlds, the one they were leaving and the one they were entering.
Kodak invented the digital camera in 1975, but did not truly begin the company’s move into digital until 2004. Clearly, we can see with hindsight, this was too late. True, few could have foreseen the speed with which film was eclipsed by digital, but Kodak did not have to foresee this in order to be ready. They brought about their own decline not by inventing the digital camera, but by closing their eyes to change for far too long.
It was never a film-or-digital decision, until it was. For a long-enough time, it was a film-and-digital decision, and Kodak failed to make it.
The question for the rest of us is this: what is changing in your industry that you are choosing not to embrace? Remember, it’s not either/or; it’s yes/and. What’s your yes/and?