The digital camera was invented by none other than Kodak. Steve Sasson, an electrical engineer at Kodak, developed the first digital camera in 1975. He and his supervisor got a patent for it in 1978.
In 1976, Kodak had a 89% market share of photographic film sales in the United States. In 2012, Kodak filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy.
Encyclopædia Britannica is the oldest English-language encyclopaedia still being produced. It was first published between 1768 and 1771 in Edinburgh, Scotland as three volumes, and men like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson owned a copy.
In the 1980’s Microsoft approached Encyclopædia Britannica, hoping to digitize and distribute its content along with its operating systems and other software. EB declined, believing its print media sales would be hurt.
As chance would have it, in 1996, the Benton Foundation was forced to sell Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. at below book value. The print sales could no longer compete with Encarta, Microsoft’s digital encyclopedia. Then, in March 2012, Encyclopædia Britannica, announced it would no longer continue to publish its printed editions. Instead of a print edition, the company decided to focus on its online version, Encyclopædia Britannica Online.
Its final print edition was in 2010, and was a 32-volume set.
Insight but no action
Kodak didn’t miss the digital revolution; it started that revolution. It was aware of how digital technology was going to change the marketplace, but it was reluctant to give up its high profit margins. It had the insight but didn’t have the courage to act.
Encyclopædia Britannica followed the same trajectory. Their salesmen were making around $600 per set sold. The profit margins were enormous. It had the insight but didn’t have the courage to act on that insight.
Despite seeing the future and being approached about being part of the future, both these companies backed away. The neglected the future to maintain the profits of today.
They saw the future but didn’t have the guts to do something about it. It’s one thing to have an insight. It’s another to actually act on that insight.
What is the one thing you see ahead that could take your business to a whole different level? Is there something that is keeping you from having the guts to go for it?