Studying the impact of innovation on business and society

Vistage Executive Summit: The New Kodak Moment is Something Students Will Learn in Business School

During the early ’90s, commercials which defined life as a series of “Kodak moments” sold the importance of capturing those oh so precious snapshots of our lives.

As Brian Solis described at the Vistage Executive Summit in Philadelphia today, the very meaning of the Kodak moment was later redefined as the moment in time when Kodak (or any company for that matter) fails to respond to changes in technology, the needs of the marketplace, or the desires of its customers, only to be left behind.  For Kodak, once the dominant player in film photography, it actually fell victim to its own unwillingness to take digital technology (that it owned by the way) and aggressively bring it to market out of fear that it would cannibalize its film business.   Since Kodak didn’t do it, others gladly obliged, and the Eastman Kodak Company which struggled financially for roughly two decades eventually filed Chapter 11 in 2012.  Solis named other companies that had their own Kodak moments, including Blockbuster and Borders just to name a few.

Oddly enough, ask a millennial what a “Kodak moment” is and he/she will likely explain it to you the way Brian talked about it today. Not as a precious snapshot of life, but as the very instant you choose not to innovate – to instead, clutch on to the bumper of the car until your fingers can’t hold on any longer – only to fall away. It was a powerful story aimed squarely at communicating the importance of staying close to your customer and monitoring advances in technology. It’s about making decisions based on where your industry is going rather than on where your business has been.

In a riveting presentation, Solis wasn’t sounding a warning cry to discourage the audience; he did it to inspire them. They are all innovators – he was just reminding them never to stop. Brian said that the good that happens over the next 1o years will be a result of the actions of the people in the room. He told them simply, “Your time is now.”

He’s right!

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