Shape Up Or Ship Out!

A crisis is an opportunity to seize for a better future.

By Rosalind Ho

This pandemic has challenged people to become survivors of unforeseen circumstances. We have never seen change like this before, a drastic change at that. Everything changes — business working conditions, demand and supply situations, human nature, products, and services.

Technology continues to evolve and become more integrated into daily life making it necessary to keep up with its pace. People leave for better prospects or be asked to leave if they were not able to cope.

The tag line “ Shape Up or Ship Out!” was getting louder. Adaptability is the byword that has never gone out of fashion. It has always been the case.

Don’t become like the dinosaurs! For reasons unknown, they failed to adapt to the changes of planet earth and the gigantic creatures perished. The dinosaurs among many industries also went under for failing to change and modify themselves. The following are a few examples;

One notable example was the take-over of small cars with high mileage over the giant automobiles in the mid-70s when there was an oil embargo. The shift to small foreign cars specifically Japanese-made cars dealt a heavy blow to the Detroit car manufacturers of that time.

Then there was Kodak which was one of the most powerful corporations in the world. We used to say Kodak moments whenever we take wonderful photos and print out the pictures for posterity. However, Kodak’s slow response to digitalization led caused it to lag behind some of its competitors when the camera went digital.

Despite being disrupted by digital technology, Kodak did not respond fast enough. Though its engineer created the first prototype of a digital camera in 1975 and they had invested in technology, it was slow to embrace the new business model that the camera was going the digital way. The opportunity came even later when Kodak acquired a photosharing site Ofoto which it expanded on its printing business. It finally sold the site to Shutterfly and at about the same time, Facebook bought Instagram.

Kodak still exists today, invested in other technologies including blockchain.

Then, its distant competitor Fuji aggressively explored new opportunities and created products in line with its film business, such as magnetic tape optics and videotape, and branching into copiers and office automation, notably through a joint venture with Xerox and had other avenues for increasing its revenue.

Borders Bookstore in Singapore was a favorite haunt for many avid readers. A popular US bookstore chain that opened in 1997, it occupied a sprawling space in the heart of the City. It was a great disappointment to many Singaporeans when it folded as it was slow to transition at a time when e-books and other digital media led to the decline of the publishing industry. In 2011, it completely vanished from the book scene in Singapore.

In the same way, workers who were disrupted by technological advances, the changing demands of the market, the pandemic, etc lose jobs when they failed to adapt accordingly.

Changes always cause discomfort and only the bold, industrious, and persistent people will prevail.

The lessons learned?

Corporations need to spot the changing trend and adjust accordingly by reinvesting and retraining if necessary to move with the times. Opportunity, as well as the timing, is key. If no action is taken, it would result in the slow death of the industry.

As for individuals, go where it is needed to stay relevant. Upskill oneself, look for mentors and gain more knowledge to stay in the know. Expect changes and do something to stay competitive.

Shape Up or Ship Out!

Interested in life, curious about everything. Challenge seeker, die-hard enthusiast. Just trying to get better each day.

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