[This is the text of a speech I gave around 2009 about FIRST]
Change. It is constant, reliable, and repeatable. Rather ironic isn’t it? Change is the most reliably consistent thing in our modern society.
Change has a couple of major flavors.
There is incremental change. Every few months, some basic change happens in our lives. Usually it is for the better. Upgrades, improvements, new ways of combining existing technologies. It makes our lives exciting and interesting.
The other flavor of change is paradigm shift. These are the big ones. Change to the fundamental way that our world works. Most of these are in the way we communicate, interact, work, and socialize. These are big changes affecting huge numbers of people.
Incremental change is important. It is where most people spend the majority of their efforts. This is where most established corporations live. They are the instruments of incremental change. Nothing wrong with incremental change, it has a long established history generating huge value to society.
In recent history, paradigm shift happens about every 10 years. Paradigm shift is most always the providence of the young, the energetic, the inexperienced, the new thinkers unencumbered by the warrants of incremental change. Visionaries without portfolio.
Start working backwards in our modern lives. The paradigm shifts are there. Some more mature than others.
Backup 5 years: Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, MySpace. These shifted the basic nature of how we communicate. Using new technologies to their maximum limits, these companies created new ways for us to accomplish the old tasks of humanity.
Back another 10 years. Yahoo, Google, Amazon, EBay. Companies who took hold of new technologies to create a paradigm shift of incredible magnitude.
Back another 10 years: Dell Computer, Gateway Computer. Completely changed the way that people access technology at the retail level. Brought the technology to the masses at a scale that shocked everyone.
Back another 10: Microsoft, Apple. Had a vision that everyone should have access to technology in the home. Seems so obvious now. At the time, it was considered a silly idea by a bunch of nerdy high school kids.
I have picked just a handful of companies here. Some are now among the largest corporations in the world, doing great work in incremental change. Some are still small and their paradigm shifts are still in progress.
So, what is my point? If you are as keen as I am about keeping up with change then you need to look no further than recent history.
Every one of these paradigm shifting companies was started by a high school or college student, many of them in dorm rooms, with an idea, passion, and a set of skills to make it happen. If you could build a time machine, and roll back the years to invest in a company like Microsoft, Apple, Dell, it would be a complete no brainer. You would also be handing your investment to a teenager with a passionate dream.
Since we don’t have a time machine (yet!), the best we can do is try to find the next big paradigm shift. I have no idea what the next big thing is going to be. I do, however, know where it will come from. I am quite confident that the next big thing will involve a bright, energetic FIRST student with a passion and a supportive environment that will allow them to make their vision come to fruition.
We are at about the half waypoint of the current paradigm cycle. Get involved, this is your chance to invest in our future, establish a relationship with the stewards of that future, and improve the way our world works.