Kodak film

Kodak dominated photography for over a century. Then in 2012 it filed for bankruptcy. Why? What happened? While it was instrumental in the invention of digital photographic technology, it failed to recognise its significance. In the late 1990s sales of photographic film declined and Kodak was slow to transition to digital photography.

The Swiss dominated watches. With the advent of electronic watches and Pulsar and LED displays the Swiss watch industry failed to recognise its significance. They targeted their research on improving mechanical watches. “The Swiss viewed quartz as a fad that would pass, reckoning erroneously that their mechanical excellence would see them survive as kings of the heap; it was poor judgement that would eventually lead to the demise of some companies.”

The church dominated spirituality. Especially in the West. Read again the above two paragraphs and find and replace “Kodak” or “Swiss” with “church”…

In the first two paragraphs they mistook means and goal (end). Kodak failed to understand that the goal was images – film was the means for the time. The Swiss failed to understand that the goal was telling time, watches – mechanical was the means for the time. Of all institutions church, surely, should be the very one that has lengthy expertise in distinguishing the means and the end, the goal.

Church needs to

  • be clear what its goal is
  • be clear what the current context is
  • be focused in applying today’s means to our unchanged goal

It is not too late for the parable to end well:

The Swiss watch industry was moribond in the middle of the 1970s, having missed out the electronic revolution and being strongly affected by the economic crisis.

But what is the situation now, thirty years later? Having successfully completed its structural reconversion, the watch industry is today, as it was yesterday, one of the brightest stars in the Swiss economic firmament. Better still, during the last five or six years, it has taken the leading position amongst the country’s most successful industries, breaking its own records in exporting each year.

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