Kodak’s Lesson for YOU!

While waiting for takeoff out of SeaTac airport last week, I read an article in the Wall Street Journal outlining the rise and what appeared to be the imminent fall of Eastman Kodak Co. Being that this is our industry, I was especially interested in understanding what happened to this once-iconic corporation? How could Kodak, with a history of over 130 years, fall?

The Storybook. As every company writes their history, they each hope to leave an incredible legacy behind and Eastman Kodak has done this. What the great company never expected at the height of its sensational story was to be writing into their tale Chapter 11. In New York early this morning, Eastman Kodak filed for bankruptcy.

How Does This Happen? I believe that Kodak’s fall stems from a choice to reject change. Jesh De Rox said it fabulously in his tweet this morning, “In a business world that moves so fast, standing still looks a lot like going backwards.

The First Digital Camera. Eastman Kodak company is attributed to creating the first digital camera in 1975. So why then, if they are the founding creator of  the technology that changed an industry entirely, did they lose their strong hold?

They chose not to embrace change. With Eastman Kodak’s lucrative stock holdings being wrapped up in film, the company was concerned that introducing a digital camera could hurt film sales. So they sat on the technology.

The Needle. Kodak’s history boasts of an attitude of feeling untouchable in those glory years. The thousands of employees that made up the company seemed to believe that they were in a magical bubble. No one could stop them. In hindsight, we can see that slowly and surely other companies were working away at getting their footing in the industry and many began turning their focus toward digital. Sony, Canon and many other companies began developing and emerging with the technology that would later come to be in almost every Amercian home, the digital camera. And so the needle emerged.

What Can We Learn? Change is inevitable. Technology comes at us at a rate that is dumbfounding, and that’s never a comfortable situation to find yourself in. We have two options though… When change stands in our way, we can either roll up our sleeves and push forward… learning, adapting, evolving. -OR- We stand still, meekly looking for a way around the challenge. To do this is to allow fear, uncertainty and a lack of confidence to hold us back… Ultimately, standing still really does leave us behind. Adaption is necessary for survival.

Their Fall. We watched a giant of a company with an iconic history of over 130 years fall today. They have had the brightest and the best at their fingertips with a budget that defies the lost treasure of the ocean and they still fell. You and I… We are single standing businesses. We wear every hat, we act in every capacity, and we are met with challenges beyond our scope – daily. How, then, can we stand any chance of survival? The answer is to JUST KEEPING MOVING FORWARD.

Your Rise. Know that every challenge that you face, every obstacle you overcome, every new skill you acquire makes you better and stronger for the next! Do not hide from change, defy it… demand it’s attention and write your history as the little photographer who could not be broken.

Thoughts? Leave a comment… 

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  1. Well said Leah! I echo your thoughts completely.

  2. Stephanie says:

    Well written and well said! Its sad to see a company that was such a big part of photographic history falter, they were cutting edge for so long.

    • I know! It’s just so crazy to think that the dominating force in photography history had to make room to allow others to take its place all because it tried to refuse to evolve. Such a stark lesson for the rest of us!

  3. Amanda says:

    wow… it’s interesting that the founder of the digital camera chose not to believe in it’s own creation… for a person like me that is super critical of my own work… i think i am going to believe in myself a little more and feel more capable than critical

    • What a great take away Amanda! Perfectionism can be a curse because it stops us from being able to put our stuff out there and say this is it, as it is. It may not be the best I’ll ever create but it’s my best today.

  4. nic says:

    My fist ever digital compact was a kodak, because I trusted the name. Yes, it is to their detriment they went no further as I am now the owner of 3 Canon DSLR’s that didn’t come cheap and I am only one photographer. Just imagine!!!!! Their loss and such a huge shame. Hindsight is such a huge thing, it they could step back a moment and start again would they and where would we be.

  5. Morgan says:

    Awesome post Leah. It really is sad. With that being said I guess that this gives me the motivation and the drive to do better and to be better. I also think this is another reason why going to workshops and continuing our education of our industry and our clients is so important.

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