The last two days we’ve been looking at things publishers, agents, and writers can learn from the decline of the Kodak company. Monday we discussed knowing our business, and yesterday we looked at knowing our customer. Today let’s talk about dealing with change. Here are a few more things I took from the Kodak situation.
Kodak had a good ten-year window of opportunity to change their business—they had research and intelligence that predicted exactly how the market was going to change. They even stepped out to meet it—Kodak invented the digital camera, after all. But they failed to change enough. It’s not sufficient to be aware of coming changes. Our organizations must be taking action.
What is action? It’s innovation. It’s turning the ship—and remembering that if you start turning it soon enough, it’s okay to turn slowly.
Writers and agents are fairly flexible, so many of us are already turning our ships. It’s harder for the big publishers, many of whom have never been known as “innovators” in the first place. They’ve been operating on the same business and product models for a century or more. It will be interesting to see which companies are able to turn their ships sufficiently to avoid disaster in the next decade. Are they hiring new leaders with vision, courage, and innovative thinking? Are they anticipating even more changes in technology, reader habits, and the bookseller landscape?
By the time Kodak had fully entered the digital realm, its business was already eaten up by new competitors with better products. It was too late for them to recover. They hadn’t been blindsided—they knew change was coming—they just moved too slowly, and not comprehensively enough.
If we don’t provide our customers what they want, somebody will. In publishing, it’s already happening as new companies start up with the goal of connecting writers directly with their readers quicker and cheaper. Other companies are filling the reader’s need for some kind of gatekeeping and review process (hello, Goodreads).
“The story of Kodak’s downfall is an affirmation that true innovative spirit is much more often found in smaller companies and startups rather than old-school behemoths of yesteryear.” (Mashable)
It’s two separate things: gathering information, and then effectively using the information. The former is pretty easy, the latter is harder and seems to be the crux of Kodak’s downfall. We should all be asking ourselves if we’re looking at both sides of this equation.
Like I said in the beginning, I’m not a business analyst and these last three posts have just been a simplistic look at what we in publishing can be taking away from the Kodak situation. I hope it’s enough to spark some commentary, ideas, and debate.
Some questions for you:
What are some ways writers and agents need to change their thinking and approach?
Do you think the “upstarts” could ever truly replace the Big 6 publishers?
What are some more questions we should be asking ourselves as we look at the future of our business?
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