Zen or the Art of Reinventing Yourself
Jan 31 2012 | Krassi Genov

The year 2012 is turning out to be quite the interesting year so far. Specifically, I am talking about the seismic shift we are witnessing all around us on daily basis.  This month we heard that Facebook might soon be reaching 1 billion users, Apple announced it had sold 350M iOS devices to date and blew all revenue estimates out of the water making it more valuable than Greece (yes, the country), and Google doubled the number of its Google + users in only three months. And then there was also the slow, painful death of Kodak.

As a self-proclaimed photography geek, it pained me to behold the agony of a brand that not so long ago was so firmly entrenched in our daily lives.  Kodak managed to build a new category of its own and firmly dominated the market for over a century. Kodak was the Apple (or Google, or Facebook) of its time.  Larger than life, innovative and disruptive, it was the brand that engineers dreamed of working for and marketers loved to promote. “You press the button, we do the rest” was their marketing slogan way back in 1888, a message which in its simplicity captured people’s imagination and cemented Kodak’s market supremacy for decades to come.  Similar to the way we now refer to online searches by ‘Googling”, every captured photo on film could potentially turn into that special “Kodak moment”.  Just over a decade ago Kodak’s market value was still in the tens of billions. Times were good.

And then the entire landscape changed rapidly – digital photography (which Kodak helped invent in 1975) got much better, people ditched their conventional film cameras for the much more convenient digital cameras, then after a few more years, we all went mobile and photography became a true ‘real time’ collaborative platform.  I can now shoot, edit and share my images within seconds with the rest of the world and (even better) get immediate feedback…Thanks Mom :)!  Film and darkrooms with smelly chemicals that make this medium somewhat of a lost art became obsolete, the stuff of a niche market, that only very few of us die hard enthusiasts still find some strange pleasure in practicing.  Film became, dare I say it, the Apple computer circa 1992. And Kodak, alas, went down the chute of that time vortex.

So what is the story here? Yes, it has a lot to do with leadership (RIP Steve Jobs) and superbly executed business processes (from immaculate product design to the tiniest details in the supply chain management that can make or break a product). But, it also has to do with being a risk taker and embracing change.

Twenty years ago, Apple was stuck in the PC making business, marginalized to the point of extinction. Today it dominates the market- and mindshare in consumer electronics towering in the mobile market, among others, with billions in profits and boldly capturing new demographics.  If I had told you 10 years ago that one day you might be talking on an Apple powered phone, or do a lot of your work on a very Star Trek-looking tablet, you would have thought I had a few screws loose. And yet, here we are…

Still I see so many organizations out there that are change averse. The old ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ tack still holds true for so many of them.  Organizations, stuck in their legacy systems and outdated business processes, that still remain skeptical to the sleuth of new disruptive technologies coming their way (i.e. cloud, mobile) or agile, transformative solutions (i.e. dynamic case management).  The end  result unfortunately is that they might as well be destined to fall behind the new nimbler silo smashers entering their ‘categories’, those who are not afraid to rapidly introduce new products and open new markets. In other words, the new ‘Apples’ in the basket.

So ask yourself – aren’t you ready for making a change? Are you resilient to change or do you want to be built for change – a change that can potentially transform your business to the extent of rebuilding its fundamentals from the ground up of how you do things?

Or are you still waiting for your special Kodak moment?

Krassi Genov

Krassi brings an extensive background in product marketing, competitive intelligence and knowledge management. Prior to joining Pegasystems, Krassi held senior marketing roles with various technology companies including RightNow Technologies, Intelsat Ltd, Software AG and NTT Verio.

 Twitter @krassig