Lessons Learned from Kodak

Since 2012, Michael has been investigating Kodak's response to technological disruption. He reviewed several thousand documents, talked with more than one hundred insiders, and retraced the company’s financials back to the early 1970s. In his talk he presented his findings on the reasons for Kodak’s failure and concludes with lessons learned from Kodak – a company he considered to be a pioneer that certainly shaped the digital revolution.

The Eastman Kodak Company, the former industry leader in traditional chemical-based photography and probably one of the most-cited cases in business lectures with regard to discontinuous change, provides a fascinating and rich case study to enriching current understanding of a problem managers are facing today more than ever: how to respond to discontinuous technological change. A thorough re-examination of this case helped to extend present theory in a way that illuminates the preconditions for a company’s challenge to adapt to (or flee from) disruptive environments. The roughly 85 interviews I conducted with individuals affiliated with Kodak at all levels of the company, ranging from staff members in diverse functional areas to members of the board of directors and chief executives, and the results of reviewing more than 7,000 internal Kodak documents and external sources suggested that “something else was going on” and promised an improvement of contemporary theory.