Business Day

How Firms Can Avoid a Kodak Moment

How Firms Can Avoid a Kodak Moment

Few companies are completely blind to future uncertainty in global markets, but many still struggle to adapt their strategies effectively.

  • min read


How Firms Can Avoid a Kodak Moment

This article originally appeared on BusinessDay.

For a generation of business executives, Kodak is the poster child for an industry giant that failed to see the future coming. But the truth is actually more revealing.

Kodak developed a digital camera prototype in the 1970s and launched the first commercial digital single-lens reflex camera in 1991. Its strong brand and market power should have made it a force to be reckoned with as the market made its historic shift.

Instead, it walked into a set of traps common to large companies trying to cope with uncertainty: its initial moves were small-scale and scattershot. It was unwilling to risk cannibalising a highly profitable core. A last-gasp big bet was the wrong one—a failed joint venture with Hewlett-Packard to create photo-developing kiosks.

As uncertainty and turbulence continue to sweep across most global markets, a growing number of companies will struggle to avoid their own Kodak moments.

Few are completely blind to what is coming, but many still struggle to adapt their strategies effectively. That is often because traditional approaches to strategy—analysing trends, making forecasts, and committing to only the "best" course of action—are not calibrated for the high degree of instability many companies face.

They tend to disregard the one thing we really do know about making projections: that they will be wrong.

In uncertainty, both the strategic planning process and the strategy itself need to change. In our experience, the most effective leadership teams develop a clear and actionable portfolio of strategic actions that balance commitment with flexibility. Instead of relying on a planning exercise defined by conditions at a discrete point in time, they commit to a cycle of "execute, monitor, and adapt", redirecting the company towards the best opportunities over time.

Read the full article at BusinessDay.

Martin Toner is a partner in Bain & Company’s New York office and Joachim Breidenthal is a partner in the firm’s Johannesburg office.


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