Future Friday – A Lesson Learned!

The technology industry moves at a rapid pace. This is nothing new. Since the early days of digital technology, businesses have had to stay on their toes to keep one step ahead of the competition.

At Calldorado we understood the advantages and the risks of this fast-paced industry from an early stage in our life and decided to introduce a means to prevent this from ever becoming a problem.
We call it Future Friday. It’s not a monthly activity but takes place every single week and gives Calldorado staff dedicated time for creativity, innovation, forward thinking and planning.
Many technological giants over the years have foundered as they’ve sat back on their laurels and relied on their size and weight in the industry to carry them through and not dedicated resources towards futureproofing.

Case study
An example of this is, of course, Kodak’s famous and well-documented rise and fall in the camera industry. Kodak invented not only the handheld camera but also the hobby of amateur photography itself. Kodak’s business model was to bring in customers by selling incredibly affordable and easy to use cameras, coupled with a very effective marketing campaign and slogan – ‘It’s a Kodak moment’.
With the growth of digital technology, Kodak were left on the starting blocks as competition grew rapidly and many new brands not previously associated with photography entered the market with very good and inexpensive products.

The reason Kodak failed was not due to the birth of digital photography. The ironic part to this whole tale is that Kodak actually invented digital photography back in 1975, long before digital cameras entered the market. The problem was in Kodak’s business model.
Kodak were able to keep their cameras so affordable because the profitable part of the business was, in fact, in film. Kodak had a captive audience. Customers had already purchased the camera so would have to continue purchasing film in order to use it. And of course, there is no limit to the amount of film a customer might need to purchase, at least until the day they die. In their earlier days, Kodak also dominated the market with regards to the printing of film, another hugely profitable part of their business.
So, when presented with the first self-contained digital camera prototype in 1975 made by one of their electrical engineers, Steve Sasson, he was pretty much told ‘that’s cute – but don’t tell anyone about it’ (New York Times, 2nd May 2008). Why would Kodak want to lose the huge amount of revenue generated by film and printing and lose their captive customer base.
As developments in digital technology grew in the early 80’s, Kodak did a study to find out the potential impact of the growth of digital technology to their business. The fairly accurate results found that digital technology had the potential to replace Kodak’s dominant film business, but it would take some time. The study suggested that Kodak had roughly ten years to prepare for the transition.
Kodak did not use this time wisely, and in fact did very little to prepare for the shift into digital technology, which they knew was coming. Once digital cameras started hitting the market, their own products were more expensive than cheaper offerings from Asian manufacturers and they were losing money on every unit sold. The proud company that as good as invented this market, went from supreme dominance to eventually filing for bankruptcy protection in 2012.

So, what have we learned from this?
The most important lesson, of course, is not to sit back and do nothing. You may have a great product now but in fast-paced tech industries, this will be obsolete in no time. The second is to listen to your team and give them opportunities to contribute to the future of the company. Kodak did this, to begin with, investing time and money in product development which enabled Steve Sasson to develop the first digital camera. The 10 years notice that Kodak had regarding the demise of film and the shift to digital was not utilized because their resources were focused elsewhere. Had Kodak allocated time during the working month to allow staff to create and innovate, they may well still be the camera industry leader today.

Future Friday
The mobile app industry is extremely fast-paced, even when compared to other tech-industries. With millions of competing products on the market and new ones being released daily, holding back product ideas (as Kodak did with digital photography) is simply not an option, as someone else is likely to think of it and beat you off the starting blocks.
Future Friday empowers staff to contribute to the future success of the company. This can be anything from developing new product ideas, improving existing products, engineering creative ways of improving efficiency and the general running of the company, to other decision-making processes that are usually reserved for top management. Junior staff who are perhaps not so ingrained in the industry may be able to imagine creative ideas that hadn’t previously been considered by senior leadership. At the same time staff feel empowered and valued. Having a say in the company’s potential future direction improves morale and inclusivity.

We have also noticed an increase in productivity from Monday to Thursday as staff fit in their tasks earlier in the week to keep Friday free to work on Future Friday projects. Another benefit has been the interaction between staff who work in completely different departments. These are staff who would not usually work together on a day-to-day basis. For example, a member of the technical team may have a product idea and may need help from a graphic designer and marketer to bring the idea to fruition in order to present it to management. This increased level of inter-departmental interaction has improved the team spirit within the company.
We plan to continue with Future Friday for the foreseeable future and recommend other companies give it a try. You never know, a ground-breaking idea which could secure the future of your company may be bubbling away in the back of a staff member’s mind, they just need to be given a voice in order to realize it.