It’s foolhardy to ignore tech and expect to survive


Kodak’s main business was selling film, but they couldn’t keep up with the rapid evolution of digital cameras and social media.

Photo credit: File

It’s interesting to think about how Kodak, once the giant of the photography industry, has become a cautionary tale for executives. Nowadays, the mere mention of ‘Kodak’ serves as a warning about the dangers of not keeping pace with rapid technological progress and general complacency.

Kodak’s main business was selling film, but they couldn’t keep up with the rapid evolution of digital cameras and social media.

It’s a shame that Kodak missed the boat on digital photography. Despite being one of the pioneers of digital cameras in the 1970s, they failed to adapt to the changing times. 

By the time they realised how important digital photography was becoming, other companies like Canon, Fuji and Nikon had already taken the lead in the market.

Playing catch-up is tough when you’re both behind and planless, so Kodak's business aperture shut and never reopened. It’s a reminder that no business can afford to remain stagnant in the face of technological progress.

Unfortunately, unable to survive the technology onslaught, Kodak had to file for bankruptcy in 2012. They left the camera business and re-emerged as a smaller company in 2013.

Kodak’s downfall has also been attributed to its overly bureaucratic structure. The decision-making process was slow, and the management structure was hierarchical, making it tough for new ideas to gain momentum.

This lack of agility made it challenging for Kodak to adapt quickly to changes in the market and capitalise on new opportunities. It's a lesson for all leaders to stay aware of technology trends and how they affect their organisations or risk meeting the same fate as Kodak.

However, many organisations haven’t learned from Kodak’s mistakes. They probably don’t understand the lesson or are unwilling to adapt.

In Kenya, many companies have either collapsed or are teetering on the verge of failure. It’s unconscionable, for example, that Kenya Airways has survived this long despite dismal customer care records and billions of annual losses.


Well-established companies like Uchumi and Nakumatt supermarkets folded despite a long history of success. Many companies and government agencies in Kenya are struggling, yet new and agile companies join the same market and turn profits quickly.

The key takeaway is that companies must adapt and evolve with the times to remain relevant and competitive. They must embrace the new business models that disruptive change opens up and challenge their existing assumptions. Companies that fail to do so risk being elbowed out by technology and related forces.

Kodak’s downfall serves as a reminder of the importance of being adaptable and responsive to changing market trends and technologies.

It’s imperative for companies to learn from Kodak’s mistakes and prioritise agility in their decision-making processes to stay competitive and avoid becoming irrelevant.

Mr Wambugu is an accredited expert in cloud and cyber security. [email protected] @Samwambugu2