No matter one’s professional background, these days it is almost impossible to escape at least a very basic introduction to “blockchain.”
At its core, blockchain has the potential to give every individual access to data, processes, and the ability to transact with others on a scale that was never before possible. From a strictly mid-20th century point of view, the introduction of blockchain is the next step in a future foreseen by Peter Drucker. Many individuals will be self-employed, and the value creation process will be overseen and managed in a way that no longer requires multiple layers of other human beings to be part of the process. It is likely to be implemented by HR departments for employee record and compensation management, and will almost certainly be the final nail in the coffin of mandatory centrally located physical workplaces. It could also be used for proof of work, and as a means of payment using virtual currency such as Bitcoin.
For professional managers, a discussion about blockchain opens up several landmines, none of which are easily dealt with. The reason? The technology will wreak havoc on the managerial class. Many things managers do – and in many industries – are about to be automated out of existence.
Blockchain will create the same kind of career obsolescence for managers in many industries as the self-driving car, automated manufacturing, and automated supply chains will produce for “blue-collar” workers.
Unlike the less educated, lower skilled part of the workforce, however, managers will be tasked with planning their own extinction.
How to embrace that future?
Firstly, as a manager, you need to become an expert on how blockchain can be implemented in your industry. And secondly, you need to step up to the plate, and lead the change in whatever area it is that you work.
For anyone who comes from a non IT background, this might sound like a daunting proposition. However, for the current batch of MBA graduates, usually somewhere between their late twenties and early fifties, this is the task currently at hand. It will be impossible for this group to escape further formal education or work experience that requires them to understand, deal with, or implement blockchain in some form or fashion.
While a good technical background will of course be helpful, understanding how blockchain will impact your industry is much more about understanding your industry, the needs of your customers, and how this new technology might be able to solve problems in new and more efficient ways.
One of the most important things to remember about blockchain is that it is uniquely suited to tracking, monitoring and creating data in process-heavy parts of an industry. As a result, blockchain will initially be useful in banking and financial services, but will also quickly take hold in supply chain management.
Digital natives and those who have adopted this new technology because of the demands of working life (Gen X in particular), will have little trouble understanding how blockchain can be applied to these kinds of use cases.
What Are Concrete Steps I Can Take Now?
Human work and organization is in the early stages of being redesigned in a way that will be every bit as transformative as the industrial revolution was in the 19th century.
Revolutions, by definition, cannot be managed. Change, however, certainly can be.
One of the first steps to riding the wave of change is to accept that the world is rapidly transforming and that blockchain is one of the key drivers.
To that end, there are a few things you can do to prepare yourself.
- Take a course on blockchain. Consider a specialized course offering for managers in a banking or finance center where you will have access to the best teachers and thought leaders in this space including but not limited to IT experts (which often include lawyers, academics, regulatory agencies, and people in leading industries) where this is hitting first.
- Look on Meetup for groups interested in tech. This is a good way to meet other professionals who have a common interest.
- Think about vital processes in your industry and how blockchain might be used to improve them.
- Design a flow chart with one process you believe can be improved by a blockchain application.
Embracing blockchain will help you to understand the technology and identify ways that you can manage change within your industry, and be a positive driving force for innovation.
Marguerite Arnold is the founder of MedPayRx, a blockchain healthcare startup in Frankfurt. She is also an author, journalist and has just obtained her EMBA from the Frankfurt School of Finance and Management.