The Power of Possibility: How Teams Should Consider Megatrends like Blockchain

Last week, we had our annual client conference. I always look forward to it – not just because it gives me a chance to connect personally with our clients, but because it is a great reminder of how valuable genuine conversation is to any relationship (business or otherwise). We discuss emerging trends and business issues. I love these conversations – I learn so much by listening, sharing and debating with other executives.banks-blog-quote_09_19_16

We also mix in guest speakers, covering a variety of topics. This year we invited Alex Tapscott, co-author of Blockchain Revolution, to talk about one of the most groundbreaking trends emerging in the world today.

I don’t know how familiar you are with blockchain. If you are in financial services, chances are you hear the term at least once a day. In my experience, the conversations can get technical (and boring) very quickly. I’m not going to attempt to define the concept here (I’m not remotely smart enough on the topic to do it justice – but here’s a primer). Anyway, what struck me was how Alex tackled the topic – he has mastered the art of explanation and learning through engaging conversation.

What’s possible?

Alex is a fantastic speaker. He was able to make the blockchain conversation engaging and interesting because he made it relatable. He discussed how it can, and is, being used in everyday life, not just in our industry.

What I liked most was his point of view. He was not trying to tell us what to think about blockchain; he was trying to excite our interest in the possibilities it offers. He got the audience to think without making them think.

As I sat there listening to Alex, I could not help but think of another time in my life when I was sitting in a room, listening to someone talk about a major technological trend: the internet.

The conversations and discussions seem so similar. Both are megatrends, yet people initially displayed very limited thinking around the possibilities these trends could bring to life. The initial conversations around the internet focused on how to do what we already do, faster and cheaper. The same is happening with blockchain. The conversation and discussions seem centered around efficiency, not possibility. As Alex talked about possibility, I was inspired. As I reflect on the internet then and now, I realize that a blockchain view of efficiency is limiting.

What we should be asking is: How does blockchain drive new possibilities? What can we learn by thinking about blockchain in the context of another megatrend like the internet? The answer may be more simple than it seems.

Distribution of power?

Like the internet, blockchain has the potential to affect the distribution of industry power. As leaders, we understand that those who hold power in an industry usually achieve above average profits. When a trend has the probability of disrupting the power base, it throws the industry into a tail spin. It creates the opportunity for less established players to capture the reallocated power and, therefore, the profits. This redistribution of power is accelerated if the customers of that industry feel compromised, or like they are not able to get what they truly need from their providers.

As you read this, can you see the potential of a redistribution of power in your industry as a result of blockchain? If your industry’s power was disrupted, would the value your customers place on your solution deteriorate or improve? If you don’t know, I think you should spend some time figuring it out.

In 1995, when I was in business school, listening to a lecture on the internet, Netscape was the browser and you had to pay for it. People were debating whether consumers would actually ever use a credit card on the internet. We all know how that turned out. The next megatrend is right in front of us. Just think about the possibilities. I haven’t stopped thinking about it since I left the conference.

I want to thank Alex – and all of our speakers – at this year’s conference. But most of all, I want to thank our client partners for your time and participation, continued business and partnership. I hope you enjoyed the event.