The history of Eastman Kodak is fascinating. How did a global company, once so innovative and profitable almost fade into the history books?
Eastman Kodak was always ahead of the curve, inventing, improving and innovating for the first century of its existence. In 1900, Eastman Kodak introduced a $1 camera and sold its film for 15 cents a roll, putting photography within the financial reach of virtually everyone for the first time.
You can thank Kodak for all those old photo albums probably collecting dust in your attic, but filled with pictures of first birthday parties, graduations, vacations and Christmas mornings — events that otherwise would have been long forgotten. I bet you still remember that feeling of anticipation when you went to the drug store to pick up your photos and opened the envelope for the first time.
As we all know, the photography industry has changed, and the need to develop film or even purchase a camera has practically disappeared. Good old Kodak, which had built its business on film and printing, was forced to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
According to an article in the Harvard Business Review, the company’s real downfall happened when “cameras merged with phones, and people shifted from printing pictures to posting them on social media and mobile phone apps.”
Kodak might have been able to salvage its dominant place in the photography world, if only it had thought up Facebook or Instagram.
The HBR article’s author, Scott Anthony, says it is not that companies don’t see the disruptive forces in their industry or even invest in them. Their real failure is “usually an inability to truly embrace the new business models the disruptive change opens up.”
I share this story as a cautionary tale. Our March issue talked about on-demand mowing services and the companies leading that charge. The May issue explores other innovations, including robotic mowers, battery-powered equipment and smart irrigation controllers.
Failing to respond appropriately to industry advances could leave you in your competitors’ dust. You just might look around in a couple of years and realize everyone has surpassed you. It’s a good thing you still have that photo you took on your 35-millimeter camera that day you started.