How Kodak Failed

Chunka Mui
6 min readJan 14, 2017

There are few corporate blunders as staggering as Kodak’s missed opportunities in digital photography, a technology that it invented. This strategic failure was the direct cause of Kodak’s decades-long decline into bankruptcy as digital photography destroyed its film-based business model.

Photo by Kent Weakley

Kodak’s failure offers stark lessons for how other organizations grappling with disruptive technologies might avoid their own Kodak moments.

Steve Sasson, the Kodak engineer who invented the first digital camera in 1975, characterized the initial corporate response to his invention this way:

But it was filmless photography, so management’s reaction was, ‘that’s cute — but don’t tell anyone about it.’

Kodak management’s inability to see digital photography as a disruptive technology, even as its researchers extended the boundaries of the technology, would continue for decades. As late as 2007, as illustrated by the following Kodak marketing video, Kodak management felt the need to trumpet that “Kodak is back “ and that Kodak “wasn’t going to play grab ass anymore” with digital.

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Chunka Mui

Futurist and Innovation Advisor. I try to carry out Alan Kay’s exhortation that “the best way to predict the future is to invent it.”