#Strongwomen. "I write about the power of trying, because I want to be okay with failing. I write about generosity because I battle selfishness. I write about joy because I know sorrow. I write about faith because I almost lost mine, and I know what it is to be broken and in need of redemption. I write about gratitude because I am thankful – for all of it." Kristin Armstrong
How do we set young people up to be active and resilient citizens in their communities?
This is a challenge put to the Action4Agriculture team last year, initially by the Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation (VFFF) and also by the Office for Regional Youth.
VFFF commissioned Environmental Leadership Australia and Foundation for Young Australians to understand the issues for young people and make recommendations on how they can best be supported. See research outcomes here
Both organisations have youth advisory bodies and Action4Agriculture has youth representatives on both.
Action4Agriculture has been working with young people in primary, secondary and tertiary education for close to 20 years. We also have extensive insights into this demographic.
Building on our knowledge and insights plus that of our funding partners the Empowering Young Environmental Champions (YEC) program was born. We are very grateful to insights of Professor Felicity Blackstock and Tanya Jackson Vaughan in developing the model
The YEC are identified young people completing their Australian primary, secondary and tertiary education, who are supported to act on environmental and social issues important to them, their schools and their communities. Through the YEC project, these young people and their communities are connected with the best minds and ideas in government, education, industry, not for profits and the research sector to sustainably translate complex challenges into concrete problems and feel empowered to solve real world issues at a local, state or national level.
This bespoke program supports young Australians to be agents of change creating a movement to embed sustainability thinking and actions in our way of life.
The program is open to young people in Stage 3 to Stage 5 in primary and secondary schools and TAFE/Uni students in the following regions in 2023.
We have pressed the launch button and just when everything was going wonderfully the government in their wisdom moved NAPLAN from May to March 😊The things that you just cant account for in a project risk assessment 😊
The leadership journey begins with knowing how to lead yourself, then to lead teams and finally to lead systems. I believe Ryan has the capacity to not only lead systems but to drive meaningful change within Australian agriculture. He has the skills to create a movement and also the skills to gather around him the role models, mentors, champions and funding partners that he needs to be successful,” Source
The world is crying out for more youth led organisations and more youth led projects. Our research has shown us a lot more consideration could be being given to how much a young person’s life can change between the ages of 12 to 30.
They transition from education to work, they fall in love, they make decisions about careers or children and whether they can have both.
This year our youth led leadership team trialed holacracy. The person who put their hand up to be convenor suddenly found herself with a not to be missed opportunity to study in London and her PhD studies relocating her to Laos for 12 months. Life is full on when you are young
In talking to Ryan, one of my key interests in asking our wonderful journalist Mandy McKeesick to interview him and his “fan” club was the pivotal role his employer BlueScope is playing in nurturing his leadership journey. If BlueScope see the wisdom in providing Ryan with flexibility, champions and funding through their Community Foundation partnership with WIN4 then surely they too are setting a workplace culture benchmark all organisations can aspire to have.
Watch this space – Ryan has started a conversation in our team and with other people and organisations who want to support young people to be part of the youth leadership co-design process
Over the years I have worked with some extra-ordinary people. One of those is Changeologist Les Robinson
My big question “what does it take to drive meaningful change” starts with a lot of reflection on what meaningful change looks like for you and the people/organisations you are working with and successfully defining the joint vision.
At Action4Agriculture we are disciples of Les’ work in this space. Les is a big believer in keeping it simple.
Another brains trust we love working with at Action4Agriculture is Professor Felicity Blackstock who is a learning and development guru.
When you are trying to drive change you have to be able to clearly identify the problem. The research is in – Secondary School students need universal access to high quality work based learning and industry has been identified as part of the problem
So what would meaningful impact look like for me
agricultural employers can clearly articulate the ROI for providing work-based learning for school students
agricultural employers are confident they have the skills and knowledge and mentoring capacity to ensure students can use their work based learning time effectively
agricultural employers commit the time and energy into learning how to engage with workplace learning providers and young people
The pièce de résistance for me is having a cohort of facilitators who have the capacity to deliver workshops for all 12 career management competencies for the Australian Blueprint for students – how rewarding is that
82% more likely to choose a candidate with volunteering experience and
85% more likely to overlook resume flaws when volunteer work is present.
As the Action4Agriculture team recognise two of our own volunteers ( Emily May and Danielle Fordham) by nominating them for the NSW Government Hidden Treasures Honor Role I am finding myself admiring some other organisations manned by volunteers that I have been working with
This post is a celebration of the work of Ryan McParland who comes from a long line of family volunteers with a shared passion for local agricultural shows.
Ryan played a founding role in his local show society’s ‘youth in ag’ group and is working to replicate and scale the Rural Ambassador model for the South Coast and Tablelands, all while working as a mechanical engineer at BlueScope Steel where he is a highly valued member of the team as this quote from his manager reinforces
Ryan is a gifted engineer who continually seeks improvement, not only in himself but in the people and the systems around him. As a genuine leader, he engenders a spirit of cooperation and engages those he works with, seldom taking the credit that is his due.
Ryan is well known to be a youth leader outside of our company, regularly involving us with him in charitable fund raising, promoting the shows and team building activities that lean heavily on his agricultural life experiences.
Ryan is a role model, who is genuine and is an asset to anyone fortunate to work with him.
Harry Murphy Manager Energy Services Asset Development, Digital, Services and Manufacturing Excellence
Ryan was a 2021 RAS of NSW Rural Achiever and his experience inspired him to kickstart a similar initiative at local shows in his region. Ryan recently invited me to judge the Albion Park Rural Ambassador program that he has been instrumental in founding, with the long term view of seeing it replicated at all NSW shows. These young people come from all walks of life, with a dedication to give back to the communities they are proud of.
I first met the Rural Ambassador finalists, Maddi Calloway, Shaylene Mawbey, Jayda Tisma and Ethan Forsyth a week before the show for their interviews. I was gob smacked. All came well prepared and answered the questions from their hearts with a raw authenticity we don’t see enough of in the 21st century.
Ryan then managed to entice WINNews ( and me to support them) to showcase the ambassadors
Then I got to spend a whole day at the show watching them and their extraordinary volunteer work ethic in action.
I certainly discovered just important volunteers are. Wow so much happens in 12 hours at an agricultural show.
These wonderful pictures from the Wollongong Camera Club share some of the joy and excitement
Its a a family affair with Ryan’s brother Glenn coordinates the animal nursey – bring his farmyard to the show
There are opportunities to milk a cow, real ones and faux ones
There are competitions
There is sideshow alley and face painting
and show food – chip on a stick. With potatoes in short supply I wasn’t overly surprised to see these sell for $10 each
and those stunt people that thrill the crowds and seem to have no fear. Did I hear correctly this truck cost $400K?
and it all seems to run like clockwork.
There are some important research facts around the value of volunteering for young people.
They bring fresh ideas, they adjust easily, they are naturally inquisitive, and are more likely to discover creative solutions.
Volunteering can have a positive impact on volunteers as well as the people and organisations they help.
From building skills like collaboration and problem solving
they get invaluable life experiences.
Volunteers must put their own needs aside to address the needs of others.
Exposure to meaningful volunteer opportunities as children and young people helps foster lasting empathy and a sense of belonging, qualities necessary in cultivating safe, unified communities.
After shadowing the Albion Park Show rural ambassadors for a week I am in awe of what it takes to draw a record crowd to an event and keep them entertained from 8am until 10pm. A reminder of how important it is that young people like Ethan Forsyth, Madi Calloway, Shay Mawbey and Jayda Tisma put their hands up to carry on the proud tradition of community volunteering that it takes to make it all happen
Congratulations to Madi Calloway who is the 2023 Albion Park Show Rural Ambassador – a truly tough decision. Mega shoutout to Ryan McParland doing an extraordinary job of bringing local youth together. 🙏 BlueScope and #WINTV for investing in NextGen #countryshows#community#youthinag#volunteering#action4agriculture
See the wonderful photos from the Wollongong Camera Club here
I recently signed up for a workshop with Amy Gallo, an international expert in dealing with difficult people
If we are honest with ourselves we can all be difficult to deal with if some-one touches the wrong buttons at the wrong time.
I manage a capability building program for young people who are “doers” and changemakers
I often find myself fielding calls asking for advice on how to handle people who are resistant to change
The first thing I say is “This is not my area of expertise”
Whilst I have done multiple workshops across the world with world class experts like Amy. Its one thing to learn the theory, its another to put into into practice, another to find safe spaces to practice it and the mega important one finding the role models in the Compassion Curiosity Framework space that you can surround yourself with, learn from and channel when you need to
What my years of training has allowed me to do is identify the people who do it well and they make my heart sing
I saw an extraordinary example when I watched Series 12 Episode 2 of Call the Midwife recently
This 4 min video collates the scenes that I am referring to. Watch how Sister Julienne role models the Compassionate Curiosity Framework ( hear Kwame Christian talk about the framework here )
I was presented with the above ethical quandary while writing this. Someone on social media commented that she’d wanted to approach me recently but felt she couldn’t because she had two kids in tow at the time. She figured I’d judge her for being a “procreator” given my climate activism work and anti-consumption stance. It was an unfortunate assumption. I had only last week written about how bringing population growth into the climate crisis blame-fest is wrong, ethically and factually (it’s not how many we are, it’s how we live).
Of course, her self-conscious pain was real. But did I need to repent if I’d done nothing wrong, and certainly not intentionally (indeed, I’d not acted, in bad faith or otherwise).
I decided there was still a very good opportunity to switch out an “if” for a “that”. I replied: “I’m sorry that you felt….”. And I was. I didn’t want her to have that impression of judgement from another, nor to feel so self-conscious. I was sorry in the broad sense of feeling bad for her. Feeling sorry can be a sense of tapping into a collective regret for the way things are, even if you are not directly responsible.
The real opportunity here was to take on responsibility for healing any hurt, and to speed it up. If I’d listed out and justified why this person was mistaken (wrong) in feeling as she did, I’d have also missed an opportunity to be raw and open to the broader pain of the human condition.
Doing good apology is essentially an act in correctly apportioning the tasks required to get the outcome that we are all after, which, for most adults, is growth, intimacy and expansion. Ruttenberg makes the point that some indigenous cultures work to this (more mature) style of repentance (as opposed to cheap grace), as well as various radical restorative justice movements. I note that the authors and elders who contributed to the Uluru Statement from the Heart often remind us that the document is an invitation to all Australians to grow into our next era.
and to help us all do it better – the full post from The Ethics Centre
As we gear up for a referendum on a Voice to Parliament next year, I’ve been wondering if we need to have a better look at the way we say sorry.
We live in a highly binary and individualistic world that struggles to repent well. Yet we are increasingly aware of – and flummoxed by – bad faith efforts at the gesture.
Witness the fallout from former Prime Minister Scott Morrisons’ baffling response speech to being censured last week in which he refused to apologise to the nation. I reckon we ache to do better; we want true healing.
We could start with looking at the way we so often insist on whacking the Almighty Absolving Qualifier “if” when we issue an “I’m sorry”. I’m sorry if you’re offended/upset/angry. We go and plug one in where a perfectly good “that” would do a far better job.
But an “if” negates any repentant intent. Actually, worse. It gaslights. It puts up for dispute whether the hurt or offence is actually being felt and whether it is legitimate. Attention switches to the victim’s authenticity and their right to feel injured. Did you actually get hurt? Hmmm….
Things get even more disconcerting when the quasi-apologiser thinks they have done something gallant with their qualified “I’m sorry”. And will gaslight you again if you pull them up on the flimsiness of it. What, so you can’t even accept an apology!
I had a rich, senior businessmen do the if-sorry job on me recently. “I’m sorry if you’re angry,” he said in a really rather small human way. Rather than standing there miffed, I replied, “Great! Yep, you definitely fucked up. And so I’m definitely and rightly angry. Now that’s established, sure, I’ll take on that you’d like to repent.”
I heard a well-known doctor on the radio the other morning very consciously (it seemed) drop the if from the equation when he had to apologise for making remarks about a minority group (in error) in a previous broadcast. “I’m sorry I said those things. I was wrong. I’m not going to justify myself. There are no excuses. I was in the wrong,” he said. It was a good, textbook apology and he probably wouldn’t land in trouble for it.
But, and it immediately begs, is that the point of an apology?
For the wrongdoer to stay out of trouble? For them to neatly right a wrong by going through a small moment of awkward, vulnerable exposure?
What about the victim? Where do they sit in apologies?
I recall listening to a radio discussion where all this was dissected. The point that grabbed me at the time was this: In our culture, the responsibility of ensuring that an apology is effective in bringing closure to a conflict mostly rests on the victim, the person being apologised to. No matter the calibre of the apology, it’s up to the person who has been wronged to be all “that’s ok, we’re sweet” about things. They are effectively responsible for making the perpetrator feel OK in their awkward vulnerable moment. (And to keep the pain shortlived.)
And so a successful apology rests in the victim’s readiness to forgive.
Which is all the wrong way around. At an individual-to-individual level it’s cheap grace. The wrongdoer gets absolved with so little accountability involved.
At a macro level, say with injuries like racism or sexism, we can see the setup is about a minority class forgiving, or bowing once again, to the powerful.
Ruttenberg argues we are doing apologies inadequately and in a way that fails to repair the damage done precisely because we privilege forgiveness over repentance.
So how to apologise like you mean it
Drawing on the 12th Century philosopher Maimonides, Ruttenberg sets out five steps to a proper apology.
The wrongdoer fully owns that they did something wrong. There’s to be no blabbing of great intentions, or how “circumstances” conspired; no “if” qualifiers. You did harm, own it! Ideally, she says, the confession is done publicly.
2. Start to Change
Next, you the work to educate yourself, get therapy etc. Like, demonstrate you’re in the process of shifting your ways. You’re talk and trousers!
3. Make amends
But do so with the victim’s needs in mind. What would make them feel like some kind of repair was happening? Cash? Donate to a charity they care about?
4. OK, now we get to the apology!
The point of having the apology sitting right down at Step 4 is so that by the time the words “I’m sorry” are uttered, we, as the perpetrator, are engaged and own things. The responsibility is firmly with us, not the victim. By this late stage in the repenting process we are alive to how the victim felt and genuinely want them to feel seen. It’s not a ticking of a box kinda thing. Plus, we’ve taken the responsibility for bringing about closure, or healing, out of the victim’s hands.
5.Don’t do it again
OK, so this is a critical final step. But there’s a much better chance the injury won’t be repeated if the person who did the harm has complete the preceding four steps, according to Ruttenberg and Maimonides.
Does forgiveness have to happen?
I went and read some related essays by Rabbi Ruttenberg just now. The other point that she makes is that whether or not the victim forgives the perpetrator is moot. When you apologise like you mean it (as per the five steps), I guestimate that 90 per cent of the healing required for closure has been done by the perpetrator. And it happens regardless of whether the harmed party forgives, because the harm-doer sat in the issue and committed to change. The spiritual or emotional or psychological shift has already occurred.
I should think that, looking at it from a victim-centric perspective, this opened space allows the harmed party to feel more comfortable to forgive, should they choose to.
It’s a win-win, regardless of whether the aggrieved waves the forgiveness stick.
(The Rabbi notes that in Judaism, as opposed to Christianity, there is no compulsion for the harmed party to forgive.)
On the other hand believe it or not some very influential ( at the time ) rural press journalists and the stale, pale, male fraternity farmers on Twitter were very determined to assure the world these young people didn’t represent them.
Last night these two young people took out the Youth as Changemakers Award at the NSW Banksia Awards
In fact half the award winners last night came from the agriculture sector. I am so grateful these young people had the determination and grit to stand up for what they believe in and inspire others to flex their courage muscle
And then there was this
Two of the four finalists in the Ministers Young Climate Champions Award were Kreative Koalas schools with St Brigid’s Primary School being named the winner
It is such a joy to work with young people. It is such a joy to work with their teachers. Extraordinary humans like the team at St Brigid’s and the Centre of Excellence
Hon. Matt Kean announcing the Ministers Young Climate Champion Award
Whoever inspires you. Just keep channeling their mantra
“Just keep going”
“If I knew how hard it was I would never have started”
“If you believe in your heart that you need to do something, and you know in your heart it’s right… and especially when you’re in a position to make the change, you can’t back away from it,”
“If you believe in your heart that you need to do something, and you know in your heart it’s right… and especially when you’re in a position to make the change, you can’t back away from it,” Alison Mirams
As reported in the Stock and Land “Dairy Australia has launched a national marketing campaign to attract new workers to the industry, after a survey found 25 per cent of farmers were unable to find labour or access workers with the required skills.
The survey found 22pc cent of farmers were unable to fill vacant positions, within three months, and 40pc had lost one, or more staff, in the 12 months prior to the survey.
The campaign, through television, radio, social and digital promotion beamed into dairy regions, kicked off on Saturday. See extract of article at the bottom of this post”
The conversations were interesting. Despite the keynote being a woman and the industry recognising attracting and retaining women could help address its workforce shortage ( 12.7% of construction industries people are women – same as 35 years ago) the sponsor representative used predominantly male language – “the guys in hi vis” the “blokes in the offices”
Stats like 1550 insolvencies and high rates of suicide (190 ppl) per annum are heartbreaking. Young construction workers are ten times more likely to die by suicide than die from a workplace accident on a construction site.
Alison is on a mission to change the Culture Standard and is the chief crusader for the industry to have a 5 day working week.- Project 5 – A weekend for every worker Her message is “People are our Greatest Resource”. When we look after the health and wellbeing of our people they will be more productive and she is working with the University of NSW to measure this. It hasn’t been easy with 75 rain days between Jan and July seeing a 54% productivity drop.
Getting back to the dairy industry and agriculture in general, my personal experience and 20 years of working with young people in the sector and in schools has shown me people want rewarding jobs where they feel the work they do makes a difference and they are valued for their contribution. In a world where young people’s career choices are more and more driven by their values I think Alison Mirams has got it right. We need to start with the elephant in the room – if you are going to employ people then firstly you need to be prepared to gain the 21st century skills that will earn your business top marks for “GREAT PLACE TO WORK”
We need to understand what drives people to make the career decisions they make.
Before we start spending mega bucks on marketing campaigns lets all ensure our industries are them image we want the world to see
We need to show we care.
In reality lets be honest the first stage ( not the last stage) would be upskilling employers ( see Dairy Australia stage process below )
It doesn’t matter what industry we are currently in there is a scarcity of labour in an overemployed market and I was heartened yesterday by the number of times the panel mentioned the power of collaboration
“If you believe in your heart that you need to do something, and you know in your heart it’s right… and especially when you’re in a position to make the change, you can’t back away from it,” Alison Mirams
DA regional services general manager Verity Ingham said the issue had been compounded by COVID-19 and the nationwide skills shortage, across a range of sectors beyond agriculture.
The campaign would promote the benefits of working in dairy farming and encourage Australians to explore a job in dairy.
Featuring dairy ambassador Jonathan Brown and seven dairy farmers, the campaign showcases why working in dairy matters, highlighting factors that have been shown to motivate people to consider a job in dairy.
“Competition for jobseekers in regional areas is fierce, so finding good, reliable people is a priority for dairy farmers,” Ms Ingham said.
“Keeping them is just as important.
“We need workers on our farms to keep the milk flowing, the cheese on tables, the yoghurt in our lunchboxes and we really are looking for people who want job security, who like working with and caring for animals; people who are looking for variety, flexibility in their work life or wanting career progression.”
Ms Ingham said coronavirus had an impact on both international and cross-border workers.
“Because there is such a range of jobs on dairy farms, closing international and state borders really stopped that flow of employees across the nation,” she said.
“Dairies are traditionally a place for that backpacker market and it burst quite quickly.”
DA looked to local markets but found many potential workers didn’t know what was required on farms.
Ms Ingham said the advertising campaign was the first step in a four-pronged approach to attracting, and retaining, workers.
“We’re going out into regional areas looking for non-traditional workers in the dairy industry, so not necessarily poaching from the beef or sheep farm, next door,” she said.
This would be followed by career education about dairy for school, university and TAFE students.
“The third and fourth parts are around supporting our farmers, connecting them with job agencies and places where there are job seekers,” she said.
“We’ll also be skilling the job agencies, so they know about dairy, and then connecting our farmers into those networks.”
The last stage would be skilling farmers in how to employ new staff
“It’s a little bit like becoming a cafe owner – you don’t necessarily start the cafe with looking for staff, you do it because you love coffee and cake,” Ms Ingham said.
“Farmers are often getting into farming, or even succession, because they love the outdoors, putting food on the table for the nation and animals – not necessarily to employ people.”.
DA was also setting up a pre-employment program, she said.
“We are working with those job agencies and networks, in terms of making sure that anybody who hasn’t been on a farm, or who has very little experience on farms, gets those really core skills,” she said.
“Once they land on dairy farms, they have got some of those basic skills, in terms of a skill set they need.”
.. the traditional dairy sector must recognise it’s on the cusp of pivotal change. In the face of multiple threats, it should maximise the social benefits of both animal-based dairy and minimise its contribution to climate change. Milena Bojovic PhD Candidate at Macquarie University.
What does the future hold for our rural amenity and the role the cows play in it?
By 1976 Kodak accounted for 90% of film and 85% of camera sales in America. Until the 1990s it was regularly rated one of the world’s five most valuable brands.
Then came digital photography to replace film, and smartphones to replace cameras. Kodak’s revenues peaked at nearly $16 billion in 1996 and its profits at $2.5 billion in 1999. The consensus forecast by analysts is that its revenues in 2011 were $6.2 billion. It recently reported a third-quarter loss of $222m, the ninth quarterly loss in three years. In 1988, Kodak employed over 145,000 workers worldwide; at the last count, barely one-tenth as many. Its share price has fallen by nearly 90% in the past year (see chart).
For weeks, rumours have swirled around Rochester, the company town that Kodak still dominates, that unless the firm quickly sells its portfolio of intellectual property, it will go bust. Two announcements on January 10th—that it is restructuring into two business units and suing Apple and HTC over various alleged patent infringements—gave hope to optimists. But the restructuring could be in preparation for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
While Kodak suffers, its long-time rival Fujifilm is doing rather well. The two firms have much in common. Both enjoyed lucrative near-monopolies of their home markets: Kodak selling film in America, Fujifilm in Japan. A good deal of the trade friction during the 1990s between America and Japan sprang from Kodak’s desire to keep cheap Japanese film off its patch.
Both firms saw their traditional business rendered obsolete. But whereas Kodak has so far failed to adapt adequately, Fujifilm has transformed itself into a solidly profitable business, with a market capitalisation, even after a rough year, of some $12.6 billion to Kodak’s $220m. Why did these two firms fare so differently?
Both saw change coming. Larry Matteson, a former Kodak executive who now teaches at the University of Rochester’s Simon School of Business, recalls writing a report in 1979 detailing, fairly accurately, how different parts of the market would switch from film to digital, starting with government reconnaissance, then professional photography and finally the mass market, all by 2010. He was only a few years out.
Fujifilm, too, saw omens of digital doom as early as the 1980s. It developed a three-pronged strategy: to squeeze as much money out of the film business as possible, to prepare for the switch to digital and to develop new business lines.
Both firms realised that digital photography itself would not be very profitable. “Wise businesspeople concluded that it was best not to hurry to switch from making 70 cents on the dollar on film to maybe five cents at most in digital,” says Mr Matteson. But both firms had to adapt; Kodak was slower.
A culture of complacency
Its culture did not help. Despite its strengths—hefty investment in research, a rigorous approach to manufacturing and good relations with its local community—Kodak had become a complacent monopolist. Fujifilm exposed this weakness by bagging the sponsorship of the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles while Kodak dithered. The publicity helped Fujifilm’s far cheaper film invade Kodak’s home market.
Another reason why Kodak was slow to change was that its executives “suffered from a mentality of perfect products, rather than the high-tech mindset of make it, launch it, fix it,” says Rosabeth Moss Kanter of Harvard Business School, who has advised the firm. Working in a one-company town did not help, either. Kodak’s bosses in Rochester seldom heard much criticism of the firm, she says. Even when Kodak decided to diversify, it took years to make its first acquisition. It created a widely admired venture-capital arm, but never made big enough bets to create breakthroughs, says Ms Kanter.
Bad luck played a role, too. Kodak thought that the thousands of chemicals its researchers had created for use in film might instead be turned into drugs. But its pharmaceutical operations fizzled, and were sold in the 1990s.
Fujifilm diversified more successfully. Film is a bit like skin: both contain collagen. Just as photos fade because of oxidation, cosmetics firms would like you to think that skin is preserved with anti-oxidants. In Fujifilm’s library of 200,000 chemical compounds, some 4,000 are related to anti-oxidants. So the company launched a line of cosmetics, called Astalift, which is sold in Asia and is being launched in Europe this year.
Fujifilm also sought new outlets for its expertise in film: for example, making optical films for LCD flat-panel screens. It has invested $4 billion in the business since 2000. And this has paid off. In one sort of film, to expand the LCD viewing angle, Fujifilm enjoys a 100% market share.
George Fisher, who served as Kodak’s boss from 1993 until 1999, decided that its expertise lay not in chemicals but in imaging. He cranked out digital cameras and offered customers the ability to post and share pictures online.
A brilliant boss might have turned this idea into something like Facebook, but Mr Fisher was not that boss. He failed to outsource much production, which might have made Kodak more nimble and creative. He struggled, too, to adapt Kodak’s “razor blade” business model. Kodak sold cheap cameras and relied on customers buying lots of expensive film. (Just as Gillette makes money on the blades, not the razors.) That model obviously does not work with digital cameras. Still, Kodak did eventually build a hefty business out of digital cameras—but it lasted only a few years before camera phones scuppered it.
Kodak also failed to read emerging markets correctly. It hoped that the new Chinese middle class would buy lots of film. They did for a short while, but then decided that digital cameras were cooler. Many leap-frogged from no camera straight to a digital one.
Kodak’s leadership has been inconsistent. Its strategy changed with each of several new chief executives. The latest, Antonio Perez, who took charge in 2005, has focused on turning the firm into a powerhouse of digital printing (something he learnt about at his old firm, Hewlett-Packard, and which Kodak still insists will save it). He has also tried to make money from the firm’s huge portfolio of intellectual property—hence the lawsuit against Apple.
At Fujifilm, too, technological change sparked an internal power struggle. At first the men in the consumer-film business, who refused to see the looming crisis, prevailed. But the eventual winner was Shigetaka Komori, who chided them as “lazy” and “irresponsible” for not preparing better for the digital onslaught. Named boss incrementally between 2000 and 2003, he quickly set about overhauling the firm.
He has spent around $9 billion on 40 companies since 2000. He slashed costs and jobs. In one 18-month stretch, he booked more than ¥250 billion ($3.3 billion) in restructuring costs for depreciation and to shed superfluous distributors, development labs, managers and researchers. “It was a painful experience,” says Mr Komori. “But to see the situation as it was, nobody could survive. So we had to reconstruct the business model.”
This sort of pre-emptive action, even softened with generous payouts, is hardly typical of corporate Japan. Few Japanese managers are prepared to act fast, make big cuts and go on a big acquisition spree, observes Kenichi Ohmae, the father of Japanese management consulting.
For Mr Komori, it meant unwinding the work of his predecessor, who had handpicked him for the job—a big taboo in Japan. Still, Mr Ohmae reckons that Japan Inc’s long-term culture, which involves little shareholder pressure for short-term performance and tolerates huge cash holdings, made it easier for Fujifilm to pursue Mr Komori’s vision. American shareholders might not have been so patient. Surprisingly, Kodak acted like a stereotypical change-resistant Japanese firm, while Fujifilm acted like a flexible American one.
Mr Komori says he feels “regret and emotion” about the plight of his “respected competitor”. Yet he hints that Kodak was complacent, even when its troubles were obvious. The firm was so confident about its marketing and brand that it tried to take the easy way out, says Mr Komori.
In the 2000s it tried to buy ready-made businesses, instead of taking the time and expense to develop technologies in-house. And it failed to diversify enough, says Mr Komori: “Kodak aimed to be a digital company, but that is a small business and not enough to support a big company.”
Perhaps the challenge was simply too great. “It is a very hard problem. I’ve not seen any other firm that had such a massive gulf to get across,” says Clay Christensen, author of “The Innovator’s Dilemma”, an influential business book. “It was such a fundamentally different technology that came in, so there was no way to use the old technology to meet the challenge.”
Kodak’s blunder was not like the time when Digital Equipment Corporation, an American computer-maker, failed to spot the significance of personal computers because its managers were dozing in their comfy chairs. It was more like “seeing a tsunami coming and there’s nothing you can do about it,” says Mr Christensen.
Dominant firms in other industries have been killed by smaller shocks, he points out. Of the 316 department-store chains of a few decades ago, only Dayton Hudson has adapted well to the modern world, and only because it started an entirely new business, Target. And that is what creative destruction can do to a business that has changed only gradually—the shops of today would not look alien to time-travellers from 50 years ago, even if their supply chains have changed beyond recognition.
Could Kodak have avoided its current misfortunes? Some say it could have become the equivalent of “Intel Inside” for the smartphone camera—a brand that consumers trust. But Canon and Sony were better placed to achieve that, given their superior intellectual property, and neither has succeeded in doing so.
Unlike people, companies can in theory live for ever. But most die young, because the corporate world, unlike society at large, is a fight to the death. Fujifilm has mastered new tactics and survived. Film went from 60% of its profits in 2000 to basically nothing, yet it found new sources of revenue. Kodak, along with many a great company before it, appears simply to have run its course. After 132 years it is poised, like an old photo, to fade away.