“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” –Soren Kierkegaard
George Eastman had a vision that drove his invention of roll film and the camera to use it. Eastman wanted to reduce the cost and simplify the process of photography to the point everyone could have access to the technology. The vision of cameras being as commonplace as brooms led Eastman’s company to market dominance for a hundred years, but twenty-three seconds was all it took to bankrupt Eastman’s dreams.
In 1975, it took Steve Sasson twenty-three seconds to record a fuzzy 100-by-100 pixel image from the world’s first digital camera. Sasson, who worked for Eastman Kodak, showed off the new tech to company executives the next year. Pictures of the meeting’s attendees were taken and displayed on TV screens. After processing what they were being shown, the inevitable questions started. Who wants to see their pictures on a TV? How will this technology cannibalize our present film and camera sales? What does a digital photo album look like? Sasson didn’t have the answers to any of those questions then, but he knew in his gut that digital photography would be huge.
Kodak poked digital photography with a stick for the next two decades. The company would never fully embrace the technology and went bankrupt in 2012, largely because of this continuing blunder. Kodak’s failure did not lie in refusing to embrace the future, but in abandoning Eastman’s vision of the past. You see, the entire reason George Eastman founded the company was to put photography in the hands of everyone. Digital cameras represented an evolutionary step in that direction, but most everyone at Kodak forgot that was their mission.
When we do not constantly realign our actions with our purpose, there can never be lasting success. Most mission statements take far less than twenty-three seconds to read, and the example of Kodak represents that review time is well spent.
Twenty-Three Seconds: Accelerators
- What is the mission of your organization? (Don’t simply recount the published mission statement. Actually DESCRIBE your mission.)
- Does your REAL mission match your currently published mission statement? If not, correct it.
- Can every single employee describe the REAL mission of your company? Can they describe how their work contributes to the mission? If not, you’re missing a great opportunity.
Dr. Jeff D. Standridge is the best-selling author of “The Innovator’s Field Guide” and “The Top Performer’s Field Guide.” He serves as Managing Director for the Conductor and Innovation Junkie, and teaches in the College of Business at the University of Central Arkansas. Jeff helps organizations and their leaders generate sustained results in the areas of innovation, strategy, profit growth, organizational effectiveness and leadership. Learn more at InnovationJunkie.com.