Monday, June 28, 2010

Disrupting the Innovations of Polaroid

Months back, I had presented on Polaroid – Its Innovations, Transitions and at last Bankruptcy.  This topic personally interested me as I was always a big fan of Polaroid cameras and took this presentation as an opportunity to dig more about Polaroid and its history. And I gotta say I wasn’t disappointed at all. This case put light on very crucial factors that account for organizations success/failure. Polaroid stands out as an excellent example of how even an iconic company such as Polaroid can be in shambles when strategies are not planned and executed well.

Let’s look at Polaroid’s profile – It was founded by the legendary Edwin H Land in the year 1937. Polaroid was renowned for its instant film cameras and through the time had garnered millions of admirers worldwide. It was a “technology marvel” and was much ahead of its time in terms of idea and innovation. Edwin Land had created a corporation that was an envy of any tech business man and put Polaroid at a position that was not only difficult but impossible to compete in terms of technology and expertise. Just imagine, Edwin himself had more than 500 patents to his name and re-defined that way instant photography businesses ran. He’s the only CEO-inventor to have maximum number of patents (535 patents) to his name. He later resigned in the 1980’s. Later Polaroid leveraged on the innovations it had created till then; they even recognized and developed the digital photography technology right during the 1980’s, but unfortunately couldn’t put that into use. And in 2001, they declared Bankruptcy.

It was a complete shock when Polaroid declared Bankruptcy in 2001. Analysts were completely stunned on how a company which was once invincible had to taste failure..! The primary reason cited was Polaroid’s inability to venture in digital photography business, unreal business model and excessive focus into technology. This was also referred to the concept of “Disruptive Innovation”, defined by Clay Christensen who had termed it as: ‘game-changing technologies and strategies that put entrenched and dated business models out to pasture.’ Yes, disruptive innovation to an extent was a reason of Polaroid’s fall; but I would blame the inability of Polaroid’s Marketers to successfully market and propagate its path-breaking technologies. I thus named the heading of the blog post – “disrupting the Innovations of Polaroid”.

This phenomenon refers to as “Marketing Myopia”. Polaroid had grown too ignorant to move out of its Instant Photography business and look for other viable and emerging opportunities. Polaroid had completely succumbed to its Razor-Blade business model, i.e. they believed in making profits by selling films. This worked well for Polaroid and it made all innovations in bringing better films and then reaping benefit on it. Although Polaroid had stepped their foot on Digital Photography technology; they didn’t leverage on it thinking it as an unviable business proposition. This short-sightedness of Polaroid’s vision costed them very dearly. Although they knew that innovations did matter; but forgot that innovating according to the market requirements is the key to sustainability and success in a long term. They just limited themselves to Instant Photography business and curbed all their strategies to “think out of the box”.

Polaroid’s marketers misinterpreted Digital Imaging as ‘technological challenge’ rather than ‘market challenge’. And that was their biggest mistake. Similar mistakes have been done by many companies who lost their ever revered status due to their inability to respond to market changes. Even the likes of Sony who developed the cult ‘walkman’ series had to fall in the music player market, as they couldn’t recognize the rise of mp3 music format and Apple swept away the music player market with the launch of their revolutionary i-pod. Similarly electronics giants have to keep themselves up to mark by upgrading to evolving technologies from time to time (be it changing from CRT displays to LED displays, from bulky devices to ‘nanotechnology’ devices, from mainframes to equally powerful mobile computing, from pagers to mobile telephony). According to me a disruptive innovation can also be an idea. Just imagine our face-to-face meeting with our friends has been to an extent replaced by social networking sites such as Facebook, Myspace, etc… this will also affect the telephony business. In times we’ll see the replacement of paper notebooks with electronic notebooks (paper books are already being substituted with e-books!), even our own Tata Nano can be taken as an example of Disruptive Innovation – this will lead a new way to the development of cost-effective, mileage-friendly cars throughout the world.

Interesting presentation on Polaroid:   


Post a Comment

Visit to discover Indian blogs DreamHost coupon code
we are in
all india