In 1975, when Kodak engineer Steven Sasson invented the first digital camera, the company commanded an overwhelming majority of the camera and film sales market in the United States.
Not wanting to jeopardize their market share, Kodak shelved digital technology. As Sasson later recalled to the New York Times, “It was filmless photography, so management’s reaction was, ‘that’s cute—but don’t tell anyone about it.’”
Kodak missed a clear opportunity to be a pioneer of what would unequivocally become the future of photography, and arguably, the future of ad sales writ large as digital photographs have become the backbone of social media.
Today, Kodak’s market share is dismal. Whoever was responsible for seeking opportunities at the company must have had a lens cap obscuring their view!
Kodak mistakenly trusted in the old saying: if it ain’t broke…don’t fix it. But coasting on prior success can only last for so long.
This is particularly true for companies today, poised as we are on the edge of an economic decline. The cyclical nature of the economy means that periods of economic expansion will soon be followed by economic contraction.
This is an inescapable rule of market economics, though economists may debate how soon the next economic decline will come and how large its impact will be.
This fact should not be cause for surprise or alarm. Rather, it should encourage companies to plan for the future. With the knowledge that the markets cannot expand forever, now is the worst time to be resting on your laurels or putting your faith in untrustworthy dictums.
Market economics has an axiom of its own: if it ain’t broke…it will be—if only for as long as it takes for the markets to self-correct. Which companies ride the next economic wave and which companies sink in the water will largely be determined by what happens in the meantime.
Now is the time to take the lens cap off your camera, bring things into focus, and capture new information and ideas from inside and outside your organization. Even if the last decade has taken your organization to new heights, it is never a bad idea to aim higher.
I have a saying of my own that defies both conventional wisdom and the wisdom of the markets: Even if it ain’t broke…make it better!
THE TAKEAWAY: Don’t see your success as an invitation to coast; see it as an invitation to keep innovating!
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