On Paradigm Shifts

I just returned from the Rise of the Rest Summit where I had the distinct privilege of meeting some of the most inspiring, hard-working and smartest entrepreneurs around. In the evening I had an inspired conversation with a blockchain/crypt-assets entrepreneur about public equity markets, why they evolved into their current state of affairs and how a future decentralized system might look like. In the midst of our discussion the entrepreneur tried to explain the fundamental shift a decentralized ledger would bring to the market to a banker, who kept shaking his head in disagreement.

This is when it hit me — we are at the brink of some very fundamental changes to the way things are being done, resulting not only in a paradigm shift but also requiring us to completely rethink the way we do business. The decentralized nature of blockchains as well as the strange properties of quantum computing require us to not only unlearn a lot of our closely held believes, assumptions and models but also to look deeply into the very fundamentals of how we do business. This is gut wrenching and, quite frankly, might be impossible for many incumbents. And thus it presents one of the biggest opportunities for entrepreneurs and upstarts to change the course of a whole industry.

It reminded me of a personal experience: When we built Mozilla (the global nonprofit, open source organization behind the Firefox web browser) most business leaders I talked to, couldn’t wrap their head around the Open Source model. It was, in many ways, a paradigm shift as drastic as many of the fundamental technologies we are seeing popping onto the market today. With hindsight we now can see how fundamental the Open Source movement has been in changing the world — the whole tech revolution wouldn’t have happened, wouldn’t it be for Open Source.

I believe we all ought to pause for a moment and wrap our heads around the technologies which are on the horizon in our respective industries and figure out how they might shift the fundamental assumptions of our businesses.

And maybe play Bob Dylan’s prophetic song “The Times They Are A-Changin’”:

Come gather ‘round people, wherever you roam
And admit that the waters around you have grown
And accept it that soon you’ll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you is worth saving
Then you better start swimmin’ or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’

How will your industry change? And how will you capitalize on it?


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