I Keep Thinking About Kodak – and Other Tales of “Too Late in Response” Disasters

You give us those nice bright colors
You give us the greens of summers
Makes you think all the world’s a sunny day, oh yeah!
I got a Nikon camera
I love to take a photograph
So Mama, don’t take my Kodachrome away
• Paul Simon


For some reason, I keep thinking about Kodak.

It’s the same story as the story of the birth of the battery-powered watch.  And the rather foolish ridicule of the touchscreen by Blackberry and its fans.  And it is a cousin of Montgomery Ward, and Circuit City, and…

He’s the deal.  When the world changes, it changes in what appears a sudden shift – a quick, holy mackerel, I can’t believe it happened that quickly shift.  And it is so easy to lag behind — to the point of being left way, way behind.

As is now so very well known, the digital camera was invented at Kodak.  Just like the battery-powered watch was invented in Switzerland, in the midst of the “old-style”/established watch-making companies.

And, by the way, Montgomery Ward (not Sears) invented the mail-order catalogue.  Just a few minutes ago, I used it’s descendant – the on-line catalogue, with its endless number of pages, to order two items.  One click purchasing – and, for one of the items, I price-compared with another site.  It took me 15 seconds.  And, by the way, Amazon won.  Again.

The problem is something like this:

#1 – we’re making too much money in our “established” way to shift to the new.  Kodak was raking in the money with film sales.  Big, big money.  Until, it wasn’t…

And, by the way, I’m pretty sure that the last version of Kodachrome was the best version they ever made.  And, probably, the day that Kodak declared bankruptcy, they had people working on improving the film even more.  Imagine, working on the “new and improved version” of the best film the last day before the company declares bankruptcy…Kodachrome_box

Now, we know that the digital camera literally buried the film sales.  Seemingly, overnight.  (In The Second Machine Age, we read that 10% of all photographs ever taken have been taken in the last 12 months.  None of them were taken on Kodachrome).

#2 – but, really, we just can’t see it…  We are so fully defining the “product/experience” in the older, established way, that we can’t quite believe that the new will fully replace the old.

Until… it is too late.

Now, I don’t quite know what to recommend about this.  But, for some reason, I keep thinking about Kodak


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