Eastman Kodak Company (Kodak), founded in 1888, is an imaging solutions company based in the United States. Kodak is an international leader in commercial and advanced printing. But, what happened to the digital photography invention of Kodak? Let’s read ahead.
Digital photography innovation:
In 1973, Steve Sasson, a young electrical engineer started working at the applied research laboratory in the apparatus division at Kodak.
Soon after he joined, his boss assigned him a work proposal. He was to assess the practical use of a charged couple device (C.C.D).
The C.C.D. turned a two-dimensional light pattern into an electrical signal. The C.C.D was not successful to capture an image as the electrical pulses dissipated quickly. Steven utilized a new procedure viz, digitalization to convert the electrical pulses into numbers. This helped to store the image.
Steven created the first digital camera named the Rube Goldberg device.
“This was more than just a camera, it was a photographic system to demonstrate the idea of an all-electronic camera that didn’t use film and didn’t use paper, and no consumables at all in the capturing and display of still photographic images.” – Steven Sasson.
When Steven approached his superiors with the invention, he quipped:
“The reaction I got from Kodak management was one of curiosity and scepticism as it did not feel like a major invention. There was no real feeling that we had invented something. The feeling was that this was a very scary look at what could be possible in the future. As the company’s entire business model was focused around sensitized goods, proposing that they not use any of that was not popular.”
In 1978, Kodak patented Stevens’s first digital camera and with it created the future of digital photography. However, the company was not keen to push the technology and despite having the first mover advantage, they decided against using it. As an aftermath, Kodak filed for bankruptcy.
“I could just see that there could have been a different outcome if they could have taken a different approach. Again, it’s tough and very hard to accept that change in your fundamental business model.” – Steve Sasson
Had Kodak accepted the change, the reality would have been way different than it is now. We saw a similar example in the past were Vimeo, a video software solution company was able to grow by bringing innovation to its business model. Businesses need to accept change if they seek to grow. Sticking to old business models, trusted cash cows, and solely management-driven ideation and initiatives won’t work anymore. As far as the last point is concerned, I have talked about it in detail in my recent post. You can read it here. Do chime in the comment section and let us know what you think.