The enemy of progress: what is complacency and how can we avoid it?

Adam Maj
8 min readApr 10, 2020

The 19th century was beginning to come to a close, and an unassuming man named George Eastman was in his home, working to create a new contraption which he believed could make a huge difference. His new machine, which he would call a Kodak Black, was the first consumer camera to ever be created.

Back in Eastman’s time, cameras were expensive pieces of equipment that were reserved almost exclusively for professionals. The unwieldy parts and confusing mechanics made it difficult for ordinary consumers to work the devices. However, with Eastman’s new invention, the camera had now become a device not only for professionals but for everyone.

Realizing the value of his creation, Eastman immediately took to creating a company based around his product. He would call the company “Kodak.” Almost immediately after he released his product to the public, Eastman’s company saw rapid growth and success, growing to become the leading global supplier of film stock by 1896, less than a decade after the company's founding.

Fast forward almost a century, and Kodak had become one of the most envied companies on the planet. Known as the pioneer of photography and leader in innovation, the company grew to hold a 90% share of the photographic film market by 1976. At one point, the company got so popular and well known that the phrase “Kodak moment” became a commonly used phrase in the English language. Kodak was clearly one of the most dominant companies in the nation and there was no question that it was there to stay for decades longer. Or so everyone thought…

Contrary to popular expectations, Kodak’s sales began to decline steadily toward the end of the 20th century. Even worse, their competitors started to beat them out with new and more innovative technologies as Kodak slowly faded into the background of the camera industry. Finally, in 2012, Kodak filed for bankruptcy, marking the official end to the century-long reign of the camera giant (they later rebranded their company and reopened, but Kodak is hardly more than a ghost of what it once was today).