May 7, 2015

Generational Shifts: the Last Kodak Moment

In 2014, then National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Chairman of the Board, Kevin Kelly, referred to our possible future as an association, as having a Kodak moment. Chairman Kelly was sending a warning signal to the NAHB leadership utilizing the Kodak Moment as the message. For those who remember, a Kodak Moment was a slogan utilized by Kodak to tug at our hearts. It was the moment in time captured on film to cherish forever. Capturing images was not invented by Kodak. Cavemen began the practice with burnt sticks and rocks delivering crude images to a cave's wall. We witnessed many of the masters, and amateurs, of canvas painting delivering images. As lifelike as these paintings were, they were not truly the real image. Until...

The first photograph was created in 1816 in an attempt to capture real images. Between 1816 and 1878, subtle changes improved the way we preserved images but it wasn't until 1878 that George Eastman took his vision, his changes, and created Eastman Kodak, later to be known as simply Kodak. I won't bore you with details, you can Google it if you'd like, but throughout the next 130 or so years, Kodak was king of film, and the Kodak moment was our way of remembering people, places and events. You could bring an ocean into your home or a lion through film imagery. The last Kodak moment came for the company when their stubbornness allowed their competitors, like FUJI, to pass them in the advances of preserving a moment or vision. The sad part of all this was the core mission NEVER changed, never wavered; images preserved! It was the delivery system that changed. Advances, which Kodak did seem to keep up with, that changed the quality of the photo, the speed of which you can take the photo and the quickness of how the photo was developed. What Kodak failed at understanding, and I'm simplifying here, was the speed of technology moving film to digital images. FUJI and others rode the technology shifting wave into the 21st century. Kodak was swamped on the beach. Kodak eventually went bankrupt and while you'll probably be able to buy digital cameras with the Kodak name, it is no longer Kodak owned.

Other industries' giants fell to cockiness or head strong beliefs. Vinyl record companies, like Columbia, that were but now aren't because the vinyl record  moved to 8 tracks which succumbed to cassettes. Cassettes were king until compact disks became the rage. Yes, I am of an age where I experienced the birth, and demise, of all music delivery systems. Today? MP3s which are a part of our new listening experience which allow you to download music to a hand held device like an iPod.  I'm, sorry, iTouch. Wait, correction, iPhone (or is it iPad). Which version?? I'm on 6 Plus! Which leads me to recognize that I'm not even uploading music to my iPhone Plus. I'm streaming music instantly from an app called Spotify!

There are literally hundreds if not thousands, more examples. The above two examples illustrate one key and common element; they were both delivery systems. One delivered image and the other delivered music. That was the mission because there was a consumer and that consumer is very much in play today and for the foreseeable future.

NAHB leadership is concerned that our Federation may be having its own Kodak moment. Like Kodak, NAHB is a delivery system. NAHB delivers industry protection as well as ways to promote industry growth and profitability for it's consumers AKA members. Changing the delivery system is a work in progress but understanding that the most dangerous phrase in any industry is "we've always done it this way" needs to be the first thing changed. Knowing that NAHB understands the Kodak moment and relates it to our association. This is a necessary and significant step towards change. Change is not a scary thought because change should not be thought of as complete transformation or a throwing out and replacing situation. Change can be as subtle as understanding the new world order created from our housing depression. Change can be as easy as learning new techniques and apply them to our lives. No one is saying that NAHB is broken, I'm certainly not. But if I'm hearing our national leaders express their concern and invoke "the Kodak moment" as we prepare for the next chapter for our building industry's sword and shield, I would like our members to listen with open ears, understand with clear minds and stoke the passion fire that is in their hearts. History is a gift; it tells us where we were and where we could be if it's repeated. Understanding the history of the all powerful Kodak is warranted because it could be NAHB.

“Unlike people, companies can in theory live forever. But most die young, because the corporate world, unlike society at large, is a fight to the death. Fujifilm has mastered new tactics and survived. Film went from 60% of its profits in 2000 to basically nothing, yet it found new sources of revenue. Kodak, along with many a great company before it, appears simply to have run its course. After 132 years it is poised, like an old photo, to fade away.” – The Economist
Regardless of generation classification,  I want today's member, volunteer and leader to work towards what will be coming in our association's future, near and far, and never have our own Last Kodak Moment.



Anonymous said...


This is truly one of the best articles I have received !! To let you know how it impacted me, I forwarded this to our President, CEO and Chairman of the Board with a statement of appreciation for their vision and guidance of our corporation.

One of them sent me back a thank you and stated that there are many items in this article they will be able to use in their presentations in the coming year.

Michael Kurpiel, CGA, CGP said...

I'm happy I could help.