They were great with patents and very profitable photo films.
But they invented digital cameras. And they hid their innovation because they made their photo films obsolete and unprofitable.
Then came asian manufacturers who flooded the market with cheap digital cameras, destroying their margins. And eventually making them bankrupt.
Cheap cameras, gopros, digital Canon’s, smartphones had all become the new rage. Once the digital camera genie was out of the bottle, there was no way to put it back in.
What if instead of barricading their idea, they had put it in Open Source?
People could have created all of the gopros, cheap cameras or smartphones on top of their technologies. Kodak could have supported the communities of camera makers, centralizing their open innovations as Arduino or Makerbot did (before turning against its community), and making money selling the latest technologies updated with the communities innovations.
No need to become the market monopoly. Becoming the coordinator of the photo market through Open Source would have made them much more resilient and competition-proof.
Can you imagine what Kodak would look like today if they had chosen this path?
Could it also make sense for you? What would happen if someone made a cheaper and more powerful version of your project? Could you avoid this fate and protect your project by inviting a community to innovate with you?
The answer is almost always yes.
So consider going open. The Danish Design Center recently released its REMODEL methodology to help any hardware company to create an open strategy. You should really check it out. 8 out of 10 companies who went through their program have decided to put a product in the open.
Create a community who’d love to use what you do for themselves and spread among their friends and colleagues.
This will always keep you ahead of your cheapest competitors and if you get others to innovate with you, will also prevent you from becoming obsolete.