The Consequences of Not Keeping Up

Jillian MacNulty Picture

by Jillian MacNulty | Last Updated: Nov 8, 2016

Everyone knows the importance of keeping up. The context changes as we age. As a child, you need to keep up with your teammates in a race. As an adult, you realize the importance of keeping up on a professional level. What about “keeping up” on a business level? On a technology front?

What if I told you that a company that is a household name could end up declaring bankruptcy because of its inability to embrace the digital world? 

It’s already happened. Eastman Kodak, whose annual sales in 1990 were $19 billion, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in January of 2012. Their annual sales in 2015 were $2 billion. The irony of that situation is that Kodak invented the first digital camera in 1975. 

I don’t have firsthand knowledge, but based on the copious amount of information on the topic of Kodak, the company was a visionary of its time. They started out strong because they knew the importance of evolving, of looking for new technologies and patents. But their fatal flaw was that while they started out as visionaries, they couldn’t change their main focus from the profitability of film, a "technology" that was quickly growing outdated.


I’ve had a number of business trips to Kodak's hometown, Rochester, over the last few years. It’s a great town, and I’m constantly impressed with the “Kodak touch” on so many facets of life there. The stories from their glory days are pretty interesting (Did you know that Eastman Kodak once provided nearly free dental care for the kids of Rochester?) But I always feel bad thinking about what could have been, if Eastman Kodak were still the top brand it once was.

I just read a report and study from MIT that focuses on the digital transformation to enable major business improvements. In a nutshell – companies using new digital technologies from social media to embedded devices in order to improve their business (through customer experiences, streamlining operations, etc) typically end up ahead.

The scary point that can keep you up at night? According to 78% of respondents, achieving digital transformation will become critical to their organizations within the next two years. BUT - the most frequently cited obstacle to digital transformation was “lack of urgency.”

Although Kodak's story is a warning of the perils of failing to keep up with new and emerging technologies, it doesn't have a sad ending. Kodak's not giving up. As they recognized the importance of keeping up with new technologies, they started Kodak Technology Solutions in 2013 to incubate more business.

So...we all know how important it is, but too many companies just aren’t willing to have a sense of urgency to transform or create a digital strategy. All we have to do is look to the household names of years past to understand why we need to focus on these initiatives!

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