We have created a modern society where every aspect of people’s lives is a commodity someone can profit from.
Each part of you has a value in the right scenario. Regardless of the ethical questions, this is the current state of play in workplaces, products and data.
As awareness of this rises, new emergent technologies – collectively known as Web3 – mean people are starting to leverage their data against organisations and brands in their daily decision making.
Web3 technologies including (but not limited to) Crypto, NFTs, AI, AR, Metaverses, and DAOs are enabling a culture shift with individuals demanding ownership of their assets, identity, data, time and attention; away from employers, brands and institutions.
Cultural shifts like this have been seen throughout history. Take the Golden Age of Piracy. Independent groups of people took control of their wealth and trading power from the dominant economic and military forces of the time to forge breakaway communities. Today, we’re replacing boats with blockchains, and gold with data and information. But unlike the pirates of old who were tied to geographic and so more easily assaulted locations, a global decentralised web of anonymous pioneers can’t be so easily stopped.
And we should be joining them.
Web3, the next evolution of the internet built on blockchain, will not remain on the fringes for long and is only going to have more impact as years go on. How organisations adapt their attitudes, product and services, and how they learn and innovate in the space, will determine how ready they are to face into the future compared to their competitors and in the eyes of shifting audience needs and values.
If you’re not ready or prepared to adapt, you’ll miss the opportunity when it arises.
And it would be naïve to think your competitors will also remain complacent, or that your customers won’t switch.
So where, and how, is Web3 going to have most impact?
Work has shifted to hybrid patterns, flexible workspaces, the gig economy; and is being cross-pollinated with employee expectations of stronger purpose from the companies they work for. It’s a call for individuality, and reflection of a new employee-as-consumer mindset at work, with time and energy the owned currency. Talent is seeking out the best offer, not just financially, but in healthcare, work-life balance, support, culture, happiness and purpose. Organisations are having to act more as civic bodies than traditional businesses, treating their employees as citizens, competing for talent to set down roots.
People use the brands they consume to signal their values, beliefs, and tastes. There is an intrinsic link between their identity and brands, backing the purpose, mission and causes of who they buy from. When brands make an unwanted organisational change or action, it can damage people’s personal identities. This unspoken ownership demands careful curation. But it isn’t a fight brands should shy away from. We’re already seeing successful brands leaning in, with memberships, exclusives and even a share in the ownership of businesses and brands themselves.
Large institutions were where people once put their trust. Finance, healthcare, citizenship and have been the most turbulent and unstable services over the last decade. It’s no coincidence the word perma-crisis was one of the 2022 words of the year. We don’t have to think hard to see where these institutions have failed in their provision, and people are becoming tired of their livelihoods being shackled to institutions they don’t trust. They want more transparency, more access and more ownership, to avoid relying on the unreliable when the proverbial hits the fan the next time, and live without being encumbered by the middleman of centralised institutions prone to dysfunction.
For the last near two decades within Web2, organisations have comfortably interchanged the term customer with user, collecting, sorting and selling peoples previously un-commodified information and attention. People are starting to demand ownership of their data, beyond just regulation of knowing who holds it. Brands that recognise this early and design symbiotic relationships with their customers, providing value beyond the product and undisputed ownership will be the frontrunners in years to come.
A New age of Piracy 🏴☠️
So back to our pirates. The golden age of piracy was individuals forming decentralised communities out at sea to fight back at the overbearing, incredibly centralised institutions of the British and Spanish empires. It was about fairness, ownership and identity, away from the institutions that failed them, to build lives in the way that these slow, self-interested bodies weren’t responding to.
The main difference between our Web3 pirates, and the golden pirates of old, is the vessel. Pirates had boats that could be sunk, ports that could be attacked. Our Web3 pioneers have no centralised place in which the momentum can be stopped. Whilst these Web3 projects are still in their infancy and being constructed, they have an almost unstoppable, talented and passionate group of people building them. And with each new global crisis, more join their cause.
Technology has connected us in ways that pirates could only dream of. Networks of individuals connected by cause and passion, with a reach unlike anything seen previously at the touch of a screen.
Web3 is Read. Write. Own.
It will become the overarching tool set in which individuals are building this new cultural shift. Your data is your own, you can prove what is yours, collect royalties, share, fund and collaborate without the intervention of corporations or centralised bodies. A set code to play and build by that is tackling almost every industry and dismantling structures untethered to loyalty or heritage.
So I should own a pirate ship?
Maybe not. At least not yet. Web3 is still emergent; and as of writing this, it could not replace established institutions at scale in the near future. So whilst you might not want to buy a ship; you might want to train some pirates.
An experimental playground in Web3 will give your brand the base knowledge and understanding to learn, develop and prepare for the rising tide. Your job as a leader should always focus on giving your teams the tools to learn, run experiments and carve out where the opportunity might exist for you in Web3.
The benefits of this outweigh the long term costs dramatically. Organisations talk about being future-ready, but if a competitor was to pivot into a Web3 organisation next week, could you react confidently?
When you do this, don’t start with the technology itself, but the problems your customers have – and tinker with how Web3 might solve those. Start by starting. There is no better place to start than by accepting the shift itself. Give your employees ownership of this space, and let them be pirates, even if you only give them a dinghy for now.
Want to train some pirates? Let’s talk