Most people probably know about the demise of Kodak because it stuck with camera film and failed to adjust to the digital world.
But this is not a case where Kodak was surprised by digitisation.
A group of consultant-types had met the CEO of Kodak and voiced their concerns about Kodak being overtaken by the digital camera. They told the CEO 4 or 5 things he could and should do.
The CEO’s response, remarkably, was: “Kodak is a company that does not take risks.”
To the CEO, moving into the digital world was taking a risk, when in fact staying where he was and not moving into the digital world was the biggest risk of all, which he took.
It is illustration of the fatal failure of organisations, “fatal” as meaning the company dies.
The fatal failure of organizations is the result of one of three reasons:
- A failure to learn from the past
- A failure to adapt to the present
- A failure to anticipate the future
The most frequent cause of failure is the last: a failure to think about and prepare for the future, because the company is concerned only doing a good job of what it is currently doing.
Technology has and will continue to disintermediate and change virtually every business activity as we know it today. Businesses that do not seriously think imaginatively about its future will be sidelined and shrink, sometimes slowly and sometimes catastrophically.
So CEOs beware and be warned.
The antidote to anxiety is alertness.
The antidote to failure is thinking about the future.
And not just thinking, but taking action!
Dr Goh Keng Swee, Singapore first Deputy Prime Minister, used to say as he led the build-up of the Singapore Armed Forces: “The only way to avoid making mistakes is not to do anything. And that, in the final analysis, will be the ultimate mistake.”