A TrendSurfing Wipeout?

By now you’ve probably heard about Kodak filing for bankruptcy protection. For years – generations even – Kodak was synonymous with photography. My grandmother even called any camera a “Kodak”. How did such a dominant company miss the digital photography wave?

Well, they didn’t really. Sorta.

Kodak actually invented and holds the patents on much of  the technology that enabled digital photography. They demonstrated the first digital camera in 1975. At least some part of the company recognized that a new wave was coming, even if they couldn’t tell how big it would be. Meanwhile, the company as a whole continued to ride the camera/film/print wave they had surfed for years.

As the wave grew, other companies like Sony and Canon positioned themselves to ride it. Kodak eventually did too, but it was late to the game and they really were trying to ride a different wave.

Kodak believed that, even though people would be taking digital photos, they would still want a “picture” – a tangible print, something they could frame or put in an album. Their “EasyShare” line of digital cameras were designed to connect to a printer to make it easy to share (!) your pictures without a computer. And even though Kodak bought one of the early online photo sharing sites, Ofoto, they seemed to think of it as a place to hold photos for printing.

So, like a surfer late to a wave, or not paddling fast enough to catch it, Kodak missed the crest of the digital wave. And when the film & print wave crashed, so did Kodak’s business.

What might this say for your business? What wave are you riding now that might be nearing shore? What ripples or swells are out on the horizon of your industry that might turn into a big wave? How can you make your business agile enough to be in position to catch that wave if (when) it comes?

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