Set an alarm to detect smoke. You don’t want to fight a fire.

Satyajit Rout
2 min readNov 22, 2022


A 1981 internal Kodak report concluded that ‘the quality of prints from electronic images will not be generally acceptable to consumers as replacement for prints based on film photography’.

For the next two decades, the authors of the report could’ve been feted as soothsayers. Their forecast was dead-on. Until it wasn’t.

Between 1981 and 2001, digital technology continued to improve until there were more digital than physical cameras in the world.

What did Kodak do wrong that you and your firm can learn from?

They didn’t set a 𝐭𝐫𝐢𝐩𝐰𝐢𝐫𝐞.

The book 𝘋𝘦𝘤𝘪𝘴𝘪𝘷𝘦 suggests that Kodak could’ve set a tripwire for action at the outset: 𝘞𝘦 𝘸𝘪𝘭𝘭 𝘢𝘤𝘵 𝘸𝘩𝘦𝘯 𝘮𝘰𝘳𝘦 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘯 10% 𝘰𝘧 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘱𝘶𝘣𝘭𝘪𝘤 𝘦𝘹𝘱𝘳𝘦𝘴𝘴 𝘴𝘢𝘵𝘪𝘴𝘧𝘢𝘤𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘯 𝘸𝘪𝘵𝘩 𝘥𝘪𝘨𝘪𝘵𝘢𝘭 𝘪𝘮𝘢𝘨𝘦𝘴.

You’re probably familiar with definitive expert views such as:

The quality of AI output in [insert name of your industry] will not be generally acceptable to consumers as a replacement for human expertise.

The quality of driving experience in electric vehicles will not be generally acceptable to consumers as a replacement for gasolene-powered cars.

The quality of viewing experience in VR will not be generally acceptable to consumers as a replacement for non-immersive viewing.

Such declarations are often accompanied by the cost barrier: Electric vehicles/VR/computation will not be cheap enough to have mass appeal.

💡They feed an anchoring bias. People’s opinions remain rooted to early-lifecycle numbers or to future blindness.

In the embryonic internet days it was believed that a mega corporation like Yahoo or ABC or AOL had to populate all the content for a world of passive consumers–a costly and risky prospect. Yet, no one company had to hire millions of staff to write the internet. We did, as active participants.

And you know who the customer service rep for Amazon or AirBnB is? You are.

✔When technology is deflationary and change is continuous, future blindness is real. So, instead of trying to predict the future, set up a warning system to take action. Set tripwires:

👉For your business: When X market touches Y number of users, we will act.

👉For your entrepreneurial journey: When the growth rate of an emerging trend touches Z%, I will start looking for opportunities there.

👉For your future: When more than 3 people I know find their spouse on their phone, I will set up my profile on a dating app.

(You can decide X, Y, and Z based on your level of FOMO and interest, but make the 3 non-negotiable.)

There is no one vision of the future that experts have seen and agree upon. So don’t expect to be alerted in time when the incremental becomes the unstoppable. Set a tripwire.



Satyajit Rout

I write about decision-making, mental models, and better thinking and things in between