Blogs >> Technology can set us free - but we need to re-think leadership first

Technology can set us free - but we need to re-think leadership first

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Ahead of the forthcoming short course, Paul Bessems explains the power of blockchain.

Imagine that selling your house would be as easy as sending an email?  It may sounds impossible but blockchain could make this a reality.

For blockchain it doesn’t matter what information is being sent; an email, a house ownership certificate or a crypto currency. But a disruptive technology doesn’t work without an awareness of a new context (from physical to digital), an aligned organizational model and a problem to solve.

Technology alone will not be sufficient to solve social problems such as low productivity, growth, privacy, the power of big tech companies or the problem of fakenews.  And the hype around crypto currencies will not help either. Instead we need a deep understanding of new technologies and organizational models to make sure everybody benefits.

The Internet makes it possible to send a message in a secure way from sender to re-ceiver. But every time you send a message, you make a copy. The email you send is in your ‘out-box’ and in the ‘in-box’ of the receiver. We find it acceptable to copy information when we send a hundred carbon copies of an email. But when I, as a sender, have to pay you and your neighbor each twenty euros and a make a photo of a twenty-euro bill and email it to you and your neighbor stating ‘paid’, it becomes less acceptable.

We not happy with copying money – or more generally financial values. And the receiver probably also wants to know whether or not, the sender is the rightful owner of the twenty euro bill.

Blockchain adds two import functions to an Internet that already has secure transport from sender to receiver in its protocol; are you the owner of the value you want to send and do you send it only once? A blockchain secures these three important value transaction characteristics.

Blockchain can be regarded as the next phase or an additional layer on the internet: a layer of value and trust. With the internet we can share information without any significant friction. Sending e-mails (bits & bytes) costs almost nothing. With blockchain technology you can transfer values (also bits & bytes) from supply to demand without irrelevant third parties, without any significant transaction costs.

This does not just apply to selling and buying a house, but also for other products and services. To bring supply and demand together against the lowest possible costs is not just the essence of organizing work, but also the essence of organizing our economy.

Blockchain technology is not new but it can be an important step to rethink leadership and the way we organize data, trust, work and economics.

If we do it right this time you could say: ‘A small step for technology, one giant leap for mankind’.

The most important but also the most difficult part of digital transformation will be changing your worldview and the paradigm on how to organize data, trust, work and economics in a changing environment.

Imagine it is the year 1400. You look at the sky at night, see the moon and stars and might think that you were the centre of the universe and that everything else was revolving around you.

That was our perspective until somebody called Nicolaus Copernicus, developed a different worldview and said: ‘Those things which I am saying now may be obscure, yet they will be made clearer in their proper place.’ He presented a theory that we are not the centre of everything and some decades later Galileo Galilei proved that he was right.

So changing your worldview that your company is not at the centre of doing business or automated processes is essential for data economics and blockchain. Your organization is only a part of a whole.

Most people just look at the technical part of digital transformation and not at the organizational aspect. The pace of the digital transformation will continue to accelerate and so do the problems that originate when applying new technologies in old organizational models without attempting to change behavior. Most digital strategies don’t reflect how digital tech is changing management, organizational models and our social economic order.

According to the European Data Market study, the data economy will grow from € 300 billion in 2016 to € 739 billion in 2020 and the working population from 6.16 to 10.43 million. Our world is undergoing a global digital transformation where digital and the physical reality are blurring into a single integrated modern way of living.

This new world not only needs new economics thinking and technologies such as blockchain, but especially needs new organizational thinking and models to organize supply and demand of data.

What about a new organizational model that not only makes company processes more efficient but also improves the purpose of work and the productivity of information workers;a model that enhances data sovereignty, individual privacy and security and makes us less dependent on Silicon Valley; a model that addresses problems like fake news and propaganda for instance.

We are migrating from an industrial society to a data society. But the systems with which we organize data supply and demand have barely changed.

Successful organizations that are fit for the digital future will be organizations with low digital transaction costs. Firms will become more and more part of shared information and transaction networks for supply and demand of data.  If we don’t want digital dictatorship we should be wise, think differently and transform our way of doing business fundamentally. Not the tools, we as humans invented should be in charge or the centre, but we as humans ourselves.

When the Internet started nobody could imagine, that something like Spotify would exist.  As Halfdan Mahler, former director of the World Health Organisation once said: “What sounds idealistic today becomes realistic tomorrow”.

But from ‘today’ to ‘tomorrow’ is a long and difficult road where leadership and management can play an important role. It is important that they take time to understand data (economics and logistics) and blockchain; what is it, why is it important, what can you do with it, and what can it not do?

So leadership is a key stakeholder in blockchain and the bigger picture that is digital transformation. Will they be proactive or reactive? Will they be ambassadors or resistors of change? Will they give up some autonomy and believe in decentralised decision making?

One thing is clear; leadership and management must innovate more fundamentally, especially in organizational models. You could say that the real challenge is solving societal problems and the reinvention of an outdated organizational model combined with traditional leadership. Technology is not the problem.

In the short course: ‘How Blockchain Can Help us Take Control of our own Data’, you do not only learn about this new blockchain technology but how to use it to solve real problems. This course gives you the opportunity to share ideas, knowledge and projects on how digital transformation is not the preserve of large corporations but of us the people.

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