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Blazing the Right Trail in Blockchain

Guest Author: Jake Langenkamp, Managing Director, Idenx

Worth the Hype 

Often described as “the internet of money,” blockchain is transforming the way we understand and transfer value. Economics teaches us that value is a contract of sorts—we agree that a green piece of paper with George Washington’s face on it equals one dollar.

Blockchain is the technology that helps us apply this concept to the digital world, primarily through the vehicle of cryptocurrency. 

The upsides are encryption, verifiability, and innovation. The downside is disintermediation; with blockchain we don’t need those professionals who used to guide these transfers. But a whole new group of leaders is emerging to help shape the blockchain industry and guide other organizations through it. 

The pace of blockchain development and implementation has been so rapid, too, outstripping legacy industry and government response. There is an early adopter advantage to blockchain, but without proven models or regulatory clarity, the risk is definitely real. 

Making Heads or Tails 

As with many emerging technologies, there is an age and experience gap prevalent in the understanding and embrace of blockchain. Incumbents often reject disruptive technologies because the status quo has been so beneficial to them.

It's tempting for businesses outside the technology sector to dismiss blockchain as a trend, something we will figure out eventually if we have to. But this technology is impacting the transfer of value (i.e. the buying and selling of goods and services), which is what all businesses do. 

To put it plainly: If you aren’t already paying attention, heads up. Blockchain is a really big deal for all kinds of companies. So what does it mean for you?

Action Steps for Companies 

At Odgers Berndtson U.S., we partner with our clients to find leaders who understand blockchain and can figure out the best way for your company to engage with this technology to meet your goals. 

  1. Learn: We find a lot of companies either ignore blockchain or jump into it too quickly. Remember to take a beat. Yes, things are moving quickly, but the first step in implementing blockchain is to get your head around it. Only then can you really think through how it impacts the way your organization operates. More often than not, the best kind of leader to guide this process is a Trailblazer. Trailblazers are visionary and results-oriented “idea people” who are interested in adventure and want to take organizations to new places. This leader should come from the blockchain sector—understanding your industry would be a bonus.

  2. Make a plan: Like other disruptive technologies, blockchain should augment how your company does business, not fundamentally change your business model. If it is determined that implementation of blockchain would benefit the organization, a careful plan tailored to the specific end-state is required. Leaders who are most often successful at this threading of the needle dynamic are Athletes. Athletes are adaptable, versatile, great at pivoting to new roles and industries, combining experience and new ideas to take action and make progress. They are great team players focused on how to realize a vision. This leader’s goal is to coalesce the original business to the new innovative process.

  3. Keep learning: There is a lot of disinformation in the marketplace about blockchain. For an organization to stay the course on their plan to implement this important new technology, they need a trusted advisor who can distill the noise and provide unbiased analysis and strategic counsel specific to the organization and its goals. This will most likely come from the partnership of the Trailblazer and the Athlete.

The only risk you can take is not to take a risk.

Time is running out for the early adopter advantage with blockchain. Very soon there will be a sudden and unpredictable tipping point when the norm will be implementation, and everyone else will be late to the party. Remember when Amazon was a little website that sold books? 

I’m not suggesting that all companies should wholeheartedly embrace blockchain. As mentioned before, the regulatory landscape is undefined, and proven models are still really young. What I am saying is all companies should learn about it and bring in a leader who understands it to determine what—if anything—it means for your business. 

To learn more about Odgers Berndtson’s U.S. perspective on blockchain, please see partner Richard Pooley’s recent article in Blockchain Magazine titled, “What Makes a Successful CEO of a Blockchain Company,” and  “Tokenization of Talent: The Impact of Blockchain on Recruitment.” 

This article was guest authored by Jake Langenkamp, Managing Director, Idenx

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