Our Scary Kodak Moment 3.3.14

A Kodak moment.” It’s been part of our language for years. It’s that exact point in time when everything is perfect and someone says, “What a Kodak moment.”  Let’s capture it.  Let’s not miss this one.

Kodak dominated the photographic scene for over 100 years.  Almost everyone used the brand.  I can remember buying film as a kid and loading my own little camera.  It’s one of the many things I will have to explain to my children.  Film?  What’s that?

Kodak once dominated almost 90 percent market share of photographic film sales in the United States.  What has happened since has changed the meaning of “A Kodak moment.”  It’s now become a story of profound failure and missed opportunities.

 “Kodak has gone from a behemoth that owned the market to a niche player scrapping for share.” –Forbes.com, Avi Dan, Contributor

The company officially filed for bankruptcy in 2012.

So, what took out this monopoly?  The answer?  “Digital photography”- a technology that Kodak invented.  Yes… you read that right…. Ouch.

Steve Sasson invented the first digital camera in 1975.  He told his superiors about it and describes their response as,

“But it was filmless photography, so management’s reaction was, ‘that’s cute, but don’t tell anyone about it.”  -New York Times, 5-2-2008

And so began the decades of decline for a company unable to respond to the advancing digital revolution.  How could this happen?  Why couldn’t they recognize the inevitable?  They had avoided a disruption like this twice before when they gave up a profitable dry- plate business to move to film and again when they invested in color film even though it was inferior to black and white film- which Kodak already dominated.   Shouldn’t they have seen this coming?

Well….. They did. And, they did little to prepare for it. 

Kodak’s former head of marketing intelligence, Vince Barabba, conducted a very extensive research effort in 1981.  The “bad” news was that digital photography would most likely replace film.  The “good” news was that this would take some time and they had roughly 10 years to prepare for the transition.

Rather than embracing new technologies like they had done in the past, they chose to use digital to improve the quality of film rather than replace it.  In other words, Instead of embracing the future they tweaked what they were already doing.

Wow.  As a leader in the Church this story… grabs….my….attention.  It stops me in my tracks.

If this doesn’t describe one of the biggest dangers facing the American church- I don’t know what does.  This could have been avoided and it doesn’t have to happen to us either.  It’s going to require a pro-active approach for some and a wake-up call for others.

So how do we avoid such a terrible “Kodak moment?”

1.  Stay on Mission.  Why did Kodak begin business in the first place?  Their original mission was capturing a moment.  Somewhere along the way their method replaced their mission.  In the Church, will we become crippled by our own success?  Will we cling to the methodologies that brought us here at the expense of what will bring us into the next decade?  Will we recognize when the times are changing?  The American Church has been in decline for decades.  Do we need a pro-active approach only, or is a wake- up call in order?

2.  Re-Think instead of Re-Tweak.  Kodak made the mistake of believing that people would always desire hard prints for their perceived higher quality.  Even if they ventured out and tried “digital” they would eventually return. People did not return.  Has the church fallen victim to the same deceptive mindset?  The Church is in a decline.  Are we willing to admit where we’ve failed?  Are we willing to re-think our methods?  Taking the denomination off of our signs and performing cosmetic changes with music and media are tweaks.  They are methods.  Effective only if there is some “re-thinking” at a core level happening as well. 

A Kodak moment” has a double meaning now.  No longer is it a “breathtaking picture” or a “perfect moment” only.  It has also become a fork in the road.  A defining moment.  It now could be said like this,

 “Wow.  What a Kodak moment.  I wonder what they will choose.”  


  1. So happy you are back to your blog!! 🙂

    Phil. 3-Forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead…I press on toward the mark…

    1. Thanks Kathy for your encouragement. Writing is therapeutic for me…. I’m glad you get something out of my thoughts too!

  2. Fantastic blog, Bobbi! Incredible insight and you definitely captured and painted a picture of what the American churches are doing. Love the idea, and truth, that even in our personal, daily lives, there are things that we need to rethink instead of re-tweak.

    1. Thanks Irene:) I appreciate your encouragement so much!

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