retail news in context, analysis with attitude

by Michael Sansolo

There’s a scene early in the movie War Horse that captures everything you need to know about the nature of change. It’s the first battle of World War I that includes the picture’s hero, a horse named Joey, and it speaks volumes about living in the past and fighting the wrong war.

In the scene, the well-trained, highly disciplined British cavalry charges a German encampment only to run straight into the new reality of war: the machine gun. Think about sword-wielding soldiers on horseback riding briskly at machine guns and guess who wins the battle?

Most of us would insist that we would never let that happen, that we find ways to stay current. Except the world just keeps changing that fast around us. We live in a time where new technologies emerge so quickly and so regularly that we cannot possibly keep up. Permit me an example from another industry that seems instructive.

Over the holidays I was talking to a young relative about the collapse of Eastman Kodak, once the giant company in his hometown, Rochester, NY. I was trying to make a lesson about preparing for the future and he began explaining the Lytro. Just like that, I was behind the curve again.

I’m betting that many of you haven’t heard of the Lytro either, so take a few minutes to visit www.lytro.com and prepare to be amazed. Everything you know about taking a photograph is about to change in ways that you have seen in science fiction movies and can now purchase for around $400. Yes, you can buy it today.

I’m neither a scientist nor an engineer so I’ll probably say this wrong, but the basic difference in the Lytro is how it takes a picture. Rather than capturing an image, it captures the light field being emitted by the subject in a small-computerized system. That, in turn, enables you to manipulate a picture after you take it.

You know how pictures get ruined when you focus or include the wrong image in the foreground or background? The Lytro lets you move the focus off that object after you take the picture. You can switch a photo from 2D to 3D, change the perspective or do whatever else you want to the image. This isn’t Photoshop changes to an already taken picture. With the Lytro, the photo is alive inside your camera.

Imagine for a second that you work for Kodak. Your world has been rocked for decades, starting with the global competition you didn’t see coming from Fuji film and fast forwarding to a world where no one uses film, sends off for prints or even needs a camera thanks to today’s cell phones. No doubt, someone at Kodak figured they had seen it all, except then some scientists figured out a way to capture a living photo and market it at a reasonable price. Yikes.

And that’s what we have to remember about competition. It’s always evolving, always changing and every time we think we’ve seen the be-all, end-all it just means something else amazing and unforeseen is around the corner. It reminds us why we have to constantly search for the next big thing or the next way to get better. Like it or not the finish line is constantly moving. Kodak, which once ran a beautiful ad about how quickly life changes (to remind us of the power of photography), now is victim of the same. Blink once and people are using an Instamatic. Blink again and there’s the Lytro.

So ask yourself how you are changing. Are you entering 2012 thinking about the battles you won in the past without contemplating what could be coming in the future and what can you must do about it?

Just remember, a mediocre machine gun beats excellent cavalry every time.


Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at msansolo@morningnewsbeat.com . His book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available by clicking here .
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