Interview with Steve Sasson, The Inventor of Digital Photography
What does a company need to consider in order to succeed in its transformation ? How should it embark on a new business model ? These questions were addressed by Steve Sasson, a former employee at Kodak, in a conference organized by Presans and Total during the HEC Paris Executive MBA Certificate in Leading Digital Transformation.
Kodak's Transition To The Digital World
When I first joined Kodak, competition was really limited – we did get some competition obviously from Fujifilm for example but we had realtively few competitors in that field. When we transitionned to the digital world we couldn’t control all of the technologies associated with it. But when we entered the digital world, there were many more competitors, the barrier to entry was much lower and Kodak had to get up to speed in electronics. I think just about every company has to be very concerned about the technogical changes. What happened to Kodak was what I could call a massive technological discontinuity.
Changing the Old Habits
It was hard to get the middle management of the company to move. A lot of employees in the company are lifelong Kodak people and have been there for 35-40 years.They established the organization and maybe they built it up themselves. They were reluctant to change and it was very hard for senior management to actually get the middle management in the company to change. I think that was one of the biggest challenge they faced. Sometimes it takes pretty drastic action on the part of senior management to change this kind of mentality. It doesn’t mean the organization has to be transformed entirely, but companies need to change their ways of doing things.
It Takes Some Time To Grow a Giant Business
In order to succeed in its transformation and embark on new business models, a company needs patience and a clear understanding that to grow a giant business takes some time. Kodak in many cases became impatient with their new businesses, but companies have to be aware of what their potential disruptions are. They need to actively try to reinvent themselves or, in a sense, destroy their own business. Having a clear path that allows innovators to implement new things, will help companies challenge their ideas.They can arbitrate the balance of present profitability and future growth with an open management. Many brilliant people are fed up and walk away because they won’t be listened to. Managers have to support their collaborators and give them a chance to get out there to test their ideas. Even if they fail, there is always something to learn about; and the public have to see the company as being innovative, and trying to provide the best possible future for them. They've got to know your company is willing to change and then they’ll stay with you.