How could your company avoid the #Kodak #syndrome?

par / samedi, 22 août 2015 / Publié dans#Blog

Our advice for an « AWARE » enterprise ?

Aim the consecration?

We are in 2009. President Obama awarded the inventor of the first digital camera, the National Technology and Innovation Medal, at a ceremony in the White House.
It is the consecration … from the first digital camera exposed, to the National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution.

How did this start?

We are in 1973, Steven Sasson, a young 24 year-old engineer is hired by Eastman Kodak, a reliable company founded in 1880.

Does he look like the last young hire in your company?

Steven does not know it yet, but two years later, he has invented the process that allows us to take pictures with our phones, send pictures around the world in seconds and share them with millions of people.

Steven does not know that 39 years later, in 2012, the group that hired him and who had managed to enter the exclusive club of companies, made their mark in common brands like: Aspirin, Bic, Canadair, Jeep, Post-it, Zodiac…

This group would see its share fall dramatically in a few months before declaring bankruptcy.

Kodak: A successful and innovative company!

And yet this successful company, constantly innovated:

  • Results of $ 20 billion
  • an operating margin of 17%
  • 19,000 patents
  • In 1975, Kodak invented the first digital camera

But then what’s the problem?

The « wrong reasons » of his fall?

  • The company did not die for lack of capital fragility or results (originally)
  • The company did not die for lack of intelligence
  • not even because they have underinvested in research
  • or lack of creativity
  • or lack of innovation

Kodak is a goose that lays golden eggs that nobody wants to kill – especially not shareholders focused on short term results.

The Top Management is « cool » and attends to a growing or stable trend of financial results, where everything is fine … so why introduce disruptive change?

Its industry (customs clients)?? will eventually switch from analog to digital. But the time to wake up, to dare to make courageous decisions, to have courage – it’s hard after years of comfort.  Soon, it is too late.   Sony, Nikon, Canon are in place.  The custumers leave and it is the end. Kodak disappears in few months.

But why is Kodak dead?

Kodak had in his portfolio – ideas, projects, innovations … but he gave up developing so he would not jeopardize his existing and profitable business model. Kodak actually died from :

  • a short term vision
  • an inability to design a new economic model – and break from the previous
  • a bad strategy.   Their focus was on the very popular area of ​​expertise, comfort, excellence … and they gave up all other activities
  • fear of change – by its lack of boldness?

…..but it was not the first time the company encountered a problem … it has had other warnings:

  • In the 1980s, to catch up to a competitor Kodak quickly produced his own snapshots line appliances (EK4 and 6) and his films in a dedicated formatbefore losing a patent battle against Polaroid in 1986
  • Kodak had already squandered the market for copiers and printers … for which he had all the skills and technologies to compete in these markets

So I add two reasons for his fall:

  • lack of vigilance to learn from its failures
  • blind stubbornness and arrogance ? Clinging to their historical expertise ?

For while the new digital technologies have completely changed the market for cameras, they have closed their eyes to competition, for example that of smartphones. And experienced users – the consumer – has also changed dramatically …

And what about your company?

Could many successful businesses of all sizes struggle with the same rigidities?
How can you maintain successful results, while taking time to renew?
How can a culture of cash cow products become a risk-taking culture – that cost, and generates dysfunctions, …??

« Kodak syndrome is not just organizational,
it is primarily a human problem »

[Frederik Anseel]

How could your company avoid this Kodak syndrome?


Perhaps we need leaders and managers, who allow you to:

  • review your strategy – regardless of the areas of expertise, comfort, history and excellence
  • design new Business models
  • dare to change and be bold? (truely)
  • draw systematically (and positively) from the lessons of past failures
  • gain insight, losing your certainties and perhaps gain humility?

What would our advice be?

Apply our 7 strategies, first to the Executive Committee and then to the field:

  2. BE CAREFUL TO LISTEN TO YOUR EMPLOYEES – spend time and show your manager how to do – daily
  3. BE CAREFUL TO LISTEN TO YOUR CUSTOMERS – and thus train your business sales staff to do much more than just selling – regularly
  5. PROMOTE THE INTRAPRENEURSHIP – by the radical change in your management
  6. INNOVATE (really) CONSTANTLY at all levels and in all areas and accept the uncertainties and errors

What would be our vigilance point to start your « Performance Transformation »?


KODAK Leaders were not more stupid than the others …

The way to solutions is not in intelligence or in competencies… it is elsewhere!

« Observing, having an opinion, commenting is one thing,
acting in the right way is another … « 

Neuroscience teaches us: generalization, selection, distortion, … lead us to a certain ignorance; everything is good in our brain to preserve our homeostasis, our habits …

« When I see what I see, I hear what I hear and I feel what I feel …
I feel that I am right to think what I think, say what I 
and do what I do. « 

[Thierry Le Scoul]


What is a little personal variant of the well-known original quote:

« When I see what I see and hear what I hear,
I’m happy to think what I think. »

[Fernand Raynaud]

We perceive our environment in our meta-model and have our meta-programs that guide our way of selecting information, organizing information and implementing action from our own learning.

So each of us has OUR OWN REALITY after all, what we build and the way we continue to select, distort and generalize, from our own beliefs.

And beyond our perceptions, our thoughts, our individual beliefs, .. our COLLECTIVE BELIEFScan be a part of the culture of your company.

So even with everything before our eyes, we can not see … can not see … do not want to see … despite our will.

KODAK leaders were not stupid …
but they have not made the right decisions at the right time.

So despite our will, our desire, our efforts … we have strong internal resistance, the source of which escapes us.  There is so many obstacles, or unconscious fears that do not allow us to engage effectively in the right direction.

Perhaps we should accept our apparent contradictions.

Is the question « results – OR – risks? » the good one?

or…  « Results & Risks »

The « & » would it be important?

« The pinnacle of intelligence is the ability to keep in mind two opposing ideas at the same time, while continuing to work. « 
[F. Scott Fitzgerald]

It’s about you!

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