Kodak and Blockbuster's sad examples show why firms can't hide from awkward truths: Bird Lovegod

One way of considering business is as a series of experiments. Will people prefer hot cross buns with ticks or crosses, will changing the colour of the ‘buy’ button increase sales, will people eventually choose electric cars simply due to the ever diminishing number of parking places available for internal combustion ones?

Most businesses never run out of questions. I suppose very stable ones might become quite formulaic, but the market is dynamic and changeable, so new questions continuously arise.

Some are a matter of fine tuning, others may be life or death for the company. I expect Kodak pondered, will digital photography replace film in the future? They didn’t like the answer, ignored it, and went bankrupt.

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Blockbuster must have asked themselves, will streaming replace cassettes and DVDs in the future, not liked the answer, and thereby chose oblivion.

Kodak entered bankruptcy in 2012 but the brand has continued (Photo by Adam Berry/Getty Images)Kodak entered bankruptcy in 2012 but the brand has continued (Photo by Adam Berry/Getty Images)
Kodak entered bankruptcy in 2012 but the brand has continued (Photo by Adam Berry/Getty Images)

Doubtless there are questions now that businesses are asking themselves, not liking the answer, ignoring it, right up to the point where there is nothing that can be done. History is awash with examples of ignoring the truth and paying the price. They focussed on protecting what they were doing and one day woke up and it was game over.

Business really should be about truth, for only truth sustains and lasts, only truth provides a future. Truth is reality. But humanity has a number of flaws, and one of them is a tendency to reject truth if truth requires actions they would rather not take.

That’s the problem with truth. It always requires an action as a result of recognising it. Imagine you are on a journey, and you see a signpost pointing to the destination, and you realise you’re heading in the wrong direction… but you carry on anyway because you don’t want to turn around. I think that’s a reasonable analogy of the human condition.

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This problem is greatly aggravated by the phenomena that humanity doesn't actually have a preferred destination. We are not trying to get to a better place, a promised land, a utopia. We’re not even trying to make things better. What humanity is really doing in this tech-obsessed age is making technology and seeing where it takes us.

Bird Lovegod has his sayBird Lovegod has his say
Bird Lovegod has his say

That’s the entire strategy. An experiment. Make it and see what it does and where it takes us. This is clearly not the correct way to plan a journey.

Logic and common sense would say, ‘let us aim for the outcome of peace, the end of poverty, environmental restoration, and let us make technology to enable that.’ If we did that, we could achieve those aims, and make a paradise.

That would be the sane approach. What we have instead is a never ending experiment with no destination other than the ones we stumble through on the way to the next.

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This lack of direction is not just reckless, it’s 100 per cent guaranteed to take us to places that look nothing like utopia.

It will take us to social and political engineering and a flood of digital stuff that has nothing to do with ending war, ending poverty, restoring the environment, or doing anything good. It’s obvious and inevitable and there’s no plan to do otherwise because humanity doesn’t ask the right questions of itself. What are we, why are we here, where do we want to go, what do we want to be.

We must ask ourselves the hard questions, and we must act on the answers.

Bird Lovegod is a business consultant and Christian commentator

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