November 21, 2014
"Kodak's failure as a business was not due to a lack of foresight."
This was one of the insights shared by Cyril Bouquet, Professor of Strategy
, during his session on future preparedness at IMD's Orchestrating Winning Performance program in Singapore.
Bouquet admitted that he had once dreamed of working for Kodak, and he thought that the company was at the forefront of the digital movement. "Kodak actually had many patents on digital technology. There's a tendency when big companies begin to go downwards, to believe that they were blind to the changes in the market – this is not the case. What actually tends to happen is that while they're aware of what's going on, they don't have the shared insight or capacity to react. They have too many diverging views and fail to align in order to act," Bouquet said.
While it is impossible to predict the future, Bouquet asserted that business leaders have a responsibility to focus on the long term. He said that while technology is one of the most highly publicized factors that is driving future uncertainty, other key factors such as legislative changes are also significant.
Nestlé's shift from a food and beverage company to a 'wellness' company was identified by Bouquet as an example of a company that had an insight into a future opportunity for its businesses and undertook a significant shift.
When Nestlé CEO Peter Brabeck revealed a six-page 'essay' to his board entailing his 30-year vision for the firm to reinvent itself as a wellness company, he was met with silence. Financial institutions echoed this response. One year later, Brabeck returned to his board with a clearly defined strategy for Nestlé's shift to a wellness company, which has led to the creation of not only the Nestlé Institute of Health Sciences, but has also driven the growth of the health and wellbeing industry that exists today.
"To prepare for the future, companies need to focus on the long term. Instead of looking five years ahead, they should look 30. So then you ask yourself, well if this is where we want to be in thirty years, where do we need to be in fifteen years? Ten? Five? Then you must assess the gap required to reach these goals. That is how a company can prepare itself for the future," Bouquet said.
"Ensuring survival and performance requires preparedness for the future. It is essential that senior leaders allocate sufficient time to prepare for future conditions," he concluded.
IMD's Orchestrating Winning Performance (OWP) program runs every November in Singapore. For live insights from the program follow on Twitter at or check out OWP pictures on IMD's flickr account.