Kodak was a part of my family’s particular culture. Not just because that was the only film ever used in my photography-loving family, but because my grandfather started working for Eastman Kodak in the ’50s, and my dad also worked there for two summers when he was young. When I first began taking pictures as a kid, my dad handed me some Kodak film. I’ve got a Kodak centennial umbrella in my car, and the centennial t-shirt too. They remind me of my grandfather.
As I ponder Kodak and their declaration of bankruptcy, it makes me wonder where the company went wrong in their business plan. A number of articles have been written about it, and from my recent reading, I was surprised to learn that Kodak invented the first digital camera in 1975.
So what happened? How could this legendary photography company invent the digital camera and then not go on to thrive in the world of digital photography? It seems that after Kodak invented the digital camera, they made a choice to not fully pursue digital technology because they thought it would hurt their film business. And that’s the tragedy of it: their worst fears came true. The film business declined, and Kodak hadn’t made its place as a leader in the digital market either.
What resonates with me is that what seems to have led them on this path was fear. Kodak chose to cling to what was familiar instead of embracing change. In prioritizing what had been and what was, they forgot to build new dreams of what could be.
Sometimes growth involves letting go, and that jump between what is and what might be is scary. But I usually find that pursuing a dream with an unknown ending is infinitely more rewarding that taking the safe route out of fear of failure. Besides, I don’t think failure is quite as bad as people say it is because there is always the choice to get up again, dust off, and bravely keep going. I hope Kodak can find a phoenix-like way to creatively and courageously move forward.