There is a great summary at Business Week of the remarkable rise and pending fall of Silicon Valley’s newspaper – the San Jose Mercury News. They note that in many ways the Mercury News saw it all coming, but still failed to position itself to profit from the migration of offline info to online info.
Although the article does not make this point, to me the failure supports the idea that paradigm shifts do not come from old systems evolving into new ones even when the old systems “get it”, rather they come from new folks thinking out of the old boxes and building the next generation of innovative solutions basically from scratch.
Obviously new technology rests on the shoulders of old technology, but it seems reasonable to assume that the next big things are not going to come from the previous big things, they are going to spring up from the harsh, quirky, and shifting sands of technology and innovation. I would suggest that IBM might be an exception to this notion but clearly Microsoft, then Yahoo and Google, now YouTube, Myspace and Facebook all fit this model of major changes coming more from scratch than from a slow simmering of existing ideas. This also helps explain the challenges of Venture Capitalism in finding “the next big thing”, which may right now only be known by the glimmer in a college kid’s eye.
If so, who is next?