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.
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?