Friday, May 31, 2013

BIG’s Blog: Vision and Guts in equal measure

How would you feel if you created something that literally destroyed your company? It happened to Steve Sasson. He was an engineer at Kodak where his boss asked him to look into a new apparatus called a “charge-coupled device.” One year later, the first digital camera was born. While the invention changed the industry forever, it also caused the demise of Kodak, one of the biggest photo companies in the world.
Over the next few years, Kodak put billions of dollars behind digital imaging, but ultimately hit an obstacle it couldn’t overcome.
What was that, you ask?
Sasson said, “It became difficult for Kodak to shift the model. In some ways the new digital technology cannibalized an already existing film business that was quite profitable and well-regarded.”
Kodak couldn’t overcome changing their business model and, in the end, they entered bankruptcy.
Here’s the irony: The original vision of the company founder, George Eastman, was to democratize photography. Before George Eastman came along and made photography available to the masses, photography was a costly and difficult process.  He wanted everyone to have access to photography.
Long after Eastman was gone, Kodak’s leaders forgot it was about photography and, instead, saw Kodak as primarily a film company. . . but let’s cut them some slack. It takes real vision and guts to let the workhorse that has carried you for years decline, even as you are forced to invest in the future.
And, yes, I am sharing a story about Kodak . . . but we are really talking about the future of fundraising, aren’t we? It is hard to live through a period of time when you see the fundamental fundraising business model that has kept you going for years suddenly begin to fail. And, worse, you actually have to learn something new. It kind of feels like starting over.
But we do have a choice, don’t we? We can hold onto the past by not changing . . . or we can jump.
What do you bet those leaders at Kodak would like a “do-over?”
You’ve still got a window of time to make the change…but each day it closes a bit.
Join us.
(Thanks for the note, Mike Wick!)
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