Are You Asking the Important Questions?


Back in 1988 Eastman Kodak had a surplus of 1.4 billion dollars the equivalent of nearly 2.5 billion in today’s dollars and 11 profitable business units. This year Kodak is set to lose between 400 and 600 million dollars, its 12 losing quarter in the past 15 quarters according to an article on USA Today. The digital revolution has hit the once-global giant hard. Its stock peak at nearly $100 a share and now is considered junk, worth less than a dollar per share. Interestingly, Kodak researches invented the digital camera.

Kodak film irrelevance digital revolution bankrupcy

According to the article, the film business was just too lucrative to do shift gears into the digital opportunity with its much smaller margins. It didn’t happen overnight but the day Eastman Kodak decided to ignore the trend it help to start for the sake of their most profitable product, it was the day the company began to die. Today Kodak is fighting for its life and some analysts do not believe it can survive.

There’s a lesson here for all of us, no matter what we do for a living. Whether we work in the market place or we lead a church or not for profit, the day we ignore what’s best for the people we serve in order to preserve our best-selling, most profitable product is the day we set our organization into the death spiral that will land it into the state of irrelevance, bankruptcy or both.

The very company that ushered the digital revolution is now a victim of it. Think about it. How many great businesses and churches that were once innovators that are now gone or ineffective. I believe they got enamored with their own product, and their ability to improve upon it, that they failed to ask the important questions: is our product still relevant? Is this what people really need? What’s the future look like? Those are easy questions to answer when you have 2.5 billion dollars in the bank. They are impossible to answer when you’re fighting for you life.

Often my company is asked to help church and organizations that are fighting for their lives. Sometimes we get to enjoy the visionary leaders who know that while things are well, they need to think of a different future and start planning accordingly. They want to answer to important questions during the good times so they can still be successful 10, 20 years from now and seize not only the moment, but also the future.

Is your organization asking the important questions? Are you working hard to sell a great product, or are you working hard to solve a current problem?


  • Mark Jeffress

    Maurilio. Look at what’s happened to the Crystal Cathedral. It was once the most innovated church in America. Now in bankruptcy is being sold to the Catholic Church. Your point, exactly. 

  • Sally Epps

    Great insight. I have family members that worked for Eastman Kodak and lost their jobs years ago. How sad to see such a great company go down so low. 

  • Tina

    Sometimes reading your posts is just so heart breaking to me as many in our congregation leadership are unwilling to ask the hard questions, and do the hard work.  I continually feel like I am beating my head against the wall…fighting non-existent budgets, small thinking minds, and lazy leadership.  We are small (avg worship 100) but we can think bigger.  I’m not the pastor… just a lay ministry leader… and so no one seems to want to listen.  But I am uplifted knowing that there are indeed churches that are asking the questions and doing the work… we’ll just be bringing up the rear, as usual…someday, assuming we survive.  We’re a great congregation…our claim to fame being such a welcoming place… but we just aren’t thinking about being the church of the future.

    • Keep asking the questions and pushing the leadership of your church, Tina. They need you around more than they know.

  • Anonymous

    I worked at a company with similar internal thinking and it made me think about this. Kodak hung on due to the demand for film for movie studios and cinematic cameras, but now this trend is nailing Kodak again as the switch to digital cinema cameras is taking hold even stronger. The new Hobbit film from Peter Jackson is using 48 RED Digital Cimena cameras along. That should be a strong message.

    If Kodak were to dial down to a boutique, but strong provider of the film for the movie industry and refocus smaller but sound resources to the digital era, they could use their focus, influence and name to push a new segment or bring a quality product to the exisiting market for which their name could help.

    I once belong to a cult in Los Angeles, under the guise of the church whose leadership was overbearing and it was their way or the highway and many lives were destroyed in the process.

    Kodak and their example is the prime story for the past century for me to draw monumental parallels upon.

    Great post Maurilio. Outstanding.

  • Very thought provoking post. Thank you for sharing.

    My dad used Kodak products all the time as the pre-press foreman for one of the top 5 printing firms in Atlanta from the early 80’s until 2000. I’ll never forget somewhere around 1990, dad had just returned from a trip to Chicago to learn a revolutionary computerized pre-press layout system called QuarkExpress.

    As he set up the shiny new Mac LC in our living room (sporting a whopping 32mb of RAM and a 64mghz processor), I asked what we were looking at. His response, “Son this is the end of my job as I know it.” Ten years later his prophecy rang true as Phoenix Communications closed it’s doors forever in Atlanta late in the year 2000.

    Think about this – explaining to our grandchildren what a “Kodak Moment” is/was. Today, that phrase means capturing a priceless moment we never want to forget. By then, however, a Kodak Moment could carry a much different message, one that conveys the dangers of not looking forward and being willing to change.

    – BP

    • What a great story, Bryan. Love your summary on the last sentence. Well said.

  • John

    Sad story but a great wake-up call to all of those who lead!  Excellent post.

  • wilsonpd64

    Very valid point. I think a lot of businesses, individuals, and churches could learn from a call to examine relevancy. We live in a fast paced world.

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