In the 1880’s, George Eastman invented a process for applying a photographic emulsion to flexible film. He soon brought out a simple camera he called “The Kodak” to take advantage of this new photographic film. This little camera changed the world by allowing anyone to take pictures and, in the process, gave birth to the photofinishing industry that thrived for many decades.
Almost exactly 100 years later, his namesake business – the Eastman Kodak Company – invented digital photography. This time, however, visionaries like George Eastman were all gone. Rather than seeing a dramatic new technology and envisioning how it could enhance the photographic industry, Kodak saw digital imaging only as a threat to their core business of making film. They obviously lacked vision.
Today, we know the rest of the story. Not only digital cameras, but also modern smartphones with high quality in-phone cameras are the practical descendants of the first Kodak camera. Even though they are uncomplicated and easy to use, the innovator of digital photography failed to capitalize.
We sometimes use the phrase, “resting on our laurels,” to describe individuals or companies that fail to generate or pursue new ideas. But the problem is greater than that. It has to do with being so enamored with our past that we cannot or are unwilling to move toward the future.
Several of the speakers at a Photoshop World convention I attended pointed out how our past accomplishments can prevent us being able to achieve great things in the future. In my industry for example, excellent photographers continue to admire the wonderful photographs they made twenty years ago and keep producing the same images. Similarly, in music – another industry where I devote a lot of my time – some musicians keep listening to their old tunes and can’t imagine playing anything else.
In other words, we can become stuck in our old, familiar ways and fail to recognize the promise and possibilities of trying new and different ways for the future. I have observed a basic truth for any kind of business: The larger the company, the more likely the leadership is to demonstrate a lack of imagination and creativity to see or appreciate anything other than what they have already done.
The same can be true spiritually. Comfortable and content in accustomed religious practices, rituals and traditions, we are often reluctant to consider something new. We too can become blinded by an absence of vision. But the God of the Bible is all about “new,” as the following passages demonstrate:
New people. God knows our struggles, our limitations, and our weaknesses. He wants to make us new, individuals fully equipped to serve Him and others. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
New things. Understanding our problems with failure and imperfection, God offers a new, different future. “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing!” (Isaiah 43:18-19).
New motives. Knowing we often do not live as we wish we could, God offers the capacity to live for Him. “And put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:24).
Jim Mathis is the owner of a photography studio in Overland Park, Kansas, specializing in executive, commercial and theatrical portraits, and operates a school of photography. Jim is the author of High Performance Cameras for Ordinary People, a book on digital photography. He formerly was a coffee shop manager and executive director of CBMC in Kansas City, Kansas and Kansas City, Missouri.
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1. Did you realize the company that discovered digital photography failed to take advantage of its own revolutionary innovation? What lessons can be learned from that?
2. What to you does it mean to “rest on our laurels”? Is this always a bad thing? Why or why not?
3. How can vision – or the lack of it – relate to spiritual growth and development?
4. The statement is made that “the God of the Bible is all about ‘new.’” Do you agree? Explain your answer.
If you would like to look at or discuss other portions of the Bible that relate to this topic, consider the following brief sampling of passages:
Ezekiel 36:26-27; Colossians 3:9-10; Hebrews 8:1-13; Revelation 21:1-4