Experiential / Reality-based Learning / March 2, 2007

It's a Kodak Moment at the Smith Technology Challenge

Part-time MBAs Present Business Cases to Carly Fiorina 


Carly Fiorina, New York Times bestselling author, former chair of HP and Smith MBA '80, had to make a very tough choice when she took on the role of judge in the final round of the first ever Smith Technology Challenge, held at the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business on February 23, 2007.

The competition started late last year when hundreds of part-time MBA students split up into 58 teams of five students each, prepared to put their analytical skills to the test on a real-world problem involving how the Eastman Kodak company has dealt with the disruptive technology of digital photography.

Kodak Moment

After two months of preparations, three finalist teams were selected to present their recommendations to an audience of nearly 250 faculty, students and guests who gathered for the exciting final round in Van Munching Hall. The winning team, Kodak Touch -- comprised of Ted Towne, Peter Carlson, Josh Wooldridge, Tina Gupta, and Randy Lakin -- won $1,000 each and high praise from the respected panel of judges, including Fiorina, Smith School Dean Howard Frank, Associate Dean for Professional Programs & Services Scott Koerwer, and Harvard Senior Lecturer Willy C. Shih.

"It was a difficult decision," said Fiorina. The judges looked at three areas in their decision-making process: presentation, analysis and recommendations. With different teams being at the top in different areas, explained Fiorina, the judges decided to focus their decision on the the recommendations. the teams made for Kodak's future. She outlined the judges' views on the case: first, the world is going to digital; second, the inkjet printer strategy is looking backwards; and third, Kodak's current strategy is too little too late. "The decision was unanimous," she said. Later adding, "We strongly recommend to this team that they immediately hire all of the members of the other two teams."

Team Kodak Touch's plan was to adapt the leadership and culture in the organization, implement a Kodak ecosystem where consumers can easily process and manage their digital photographs (including an extensive Web site and point-of-purchase kiosks), brand Kodak Touch, and develop partnerships.

Team GERRY International came in second-- Shatarupa Basu, Yura Kost, Galina Kozachenko, Roderick McLean, and Ellison Wright -- with each member winning a Kodak digital camera. The third place team was Digital Innovation Services -- Stacey French, Kate Wozny, Mike Ratino, C. Scott Wood, Steve Zimmerman, and Hari Kosaraju -- with each member winning an Apple iPod.

The Assignment

Students were asked to read Tough Choices: A Memoir, by Carly Fiorina, to understand the leadership situations she encountered and how she dealt with them. They were then asked to gain an understanding of how Kodak responded to the innovation of digital photography. Kodak has experienced a great deal of difficulty coping with this rare, once in a hundred years, technology disruption; its stock price plummeted and the company lost about half of its workforce.

Professor Hank Lucas, professor of information systems decision and information technologies and faculty leader for the Challenge, said, This project was about finding and understanding problems, an important first step in trying to come up with a solution. The students conducted research using all of the tools available to them on the Internet to understand what worked and what failed to work at Kodak. Then they compared and contrasted leadership at Kodak and HP based on Tough Choices. The teams generalized the Kodak experience to other technology disruptions, and offered suggestions for current Kodak management. It is clear from the team reports that the participants did extensive research and thought carefully about their solutions. During the final presentations, the consensus was that all three teams did an excellent job. The Smith School is fortunate to have such a talented and hard-working population of part-time students."

Alissa Arford-Leyl, Office of Marketing Communications

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About the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business

The Robert H. Smith School of Business is an internationally recognized leader in management education and research. One of 12 colleges and schools at the University of Maryland, College Park, the Smith School offers undergraduate, full-time and flex MBA, executive MBA, online MBA, business master’s, PhD and executive education programs, as well as outreach services to the corporate community. The school offers its degree, custom and certification programs in learning locations in North America and Asia.

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