Innovation Threats vs. Opportunities

The cases of Polaroid/Kodak

In a disruptive innovation course with Rotterdam School of Management the Professor shows this slide below when talking about disruptive innovations.

The slide shows Polaroid who filed for bankruptcy in 2001 failing to respond to Digital Imaging. So Polaroid has been wiped out by disruptive innovation.

What the Professor also said and I fully agree, “You are – also – always one innovation away from wiping out the competition.” So every new technology is a great opportunity.

Same is btw true for Kodak who also failed to make the transition from analog film maker to digital cameras and closed in 2012.

Of course this market has been brutal. Not only was it disrupted by digital cameras but then later on by smartphones with built-in cameras and social media with cloud computing. Overall the market for digital imaging is growing very nicely 9% yearly. Just not with these traditional players. 

Bottom line, Polaroid (or Kodak) was never going to maintain their film-related revenues and profitability if they stayed in the consumer photography market – film or digital.

There are quite a few lessons to be learned:

  • disruptive innovation is brutal and makes no prisoners.
  • it happens very fast and many technology waves might “hit” you.
  • what could save you is not simply doing the same with new – digital – technology – but going into entirely new markets (see Fujifilm who did that successfully)

So in order to survive one has to (I agree with IgnitionFramework):

  • Find a market that is growing and make some key acquisitions in that market (as Fujifilm did)
  • Create an internal startup that is physically separate from everything else and not beholden to corporate policies



Digital Imaging Market…

Mobile Imaging…

An American Kodak moment…

Story of Kodak….

Surfing picture: WIPING OUT AT TEAHUPO’O

Wiping Out At Teahupo’o


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