Any manager worth his salt looks to eliminate complacency within his team. Falling into a routine and losing a sense of drive can spread like wildfire through an organization when positive results are coming in and management is happy. It becomes easy to forget that the competition is evolving when things are going well in the short-term, and it can become incredibly difficult to pull employees out of their routines once they’ve fallen into them.
For managers who are often under deadlines and quotas, altering a smoothly-running operation in the hopes that it will provide even better results can be extremely frightening. Why should businesses give up guaranteed stability in the present, in the hope that they will achieve better results in the future? Is there any way to guarantee that the implementation of new policies, technologies, or processes will result in increased sales or growth?
Unfortunately, there isn’t.
One thing is definite however. Those businesses and organizations which wait until they are forced to change by the market will not see the same success as companies which evolve early and work the kinks out.
Look no further than Kodak. The camera and film company was a titan in their industry, holding a huge share of the market from its founding in the mid 1880’s. Without much competition and a huge consumer base, Kodak enjoyed massive success until it hit a bump in the road in the 1970’s when Polaroid shook up the market with their introduction of instant photos. Although they would later be successfully sued for stealing the idea of instant film from Polaroid, Kodak adapted to the industry changing; introducing their own line of instant films, and reaping the profits that a large chunk of that market brought. Kodak’s next obstacle presented itself a decade later, when Fujifilm began selling high volumes of film at low prices, stealing a large share of the film market from Kodak which resulted in layoffs and lost profits.
While Kodak was beginning to falter by the mid 1980’s, it would be a technology that Kodak themselves initially developed which would lead to their eventual downfall. In 1975, a Kodak engineer invented the first digital camera, and saw it promptly tucked away in a closet somewhere, never to see the light of day. Had it been a small company struggling to adapt which had invented the digital camera, it more probably would have become available to consumers much earlier than history proved. Kodak however, immediately saw digital photos as the enemy, encroaching on the infrastructure and established place in the market that Kodak had spent so long working to develop. Rather than cannibalize sales of film and traditional cameras in the short-term, Kodak opted to remain set in their ways, offering consumers the same product that they had for years, and by the late 1990’s, when they realized their mistake, it was too late.
Having made poor investments like purchasing pharmaceutical and battery companies, Kodak realized too late that they needed to evolve or die. In the early 2000’s, Kodak released their first digital camera to consumers, but were entering an already saturated market and after poor sales, never recovered. Kodak declared bankruptcy in January of 2012, and along with an impressive legacy, left behind a vital lesson for managers and companies everywhere.
To avoid the missteps that Kodak and countless other companies have made, businesses need to be willing to look at new opportunities when they present themselves, even if that means sacrifice in the short-term. Managers should take a long, hard look at their organizational procedures, technology, and team members, and do regular evaluations. Understanding when to change is perhaps the most important trait for a manager and business owner to have, as it allows businesses to not only maintain current business, but grow and maintain business in the future as well.
Cam Garrant is the marketing manager at Repsly. Passionate about delivering quality content and data-driven insights, Cam's interests include SEO, basketball, and bad jokes.