What is web3?
What do we do with the metaverse?
Who do we need to hire?
Should we sell NFTs?
Are our physical products becoming obsolete?
What does all this mean for our business and our people?
Questions upon questions. Uncertainty. But also possibility. To imagine. To create from scratch. To overthrow old systems and build new ones.
For brands, web3 is currently a very deep, very broad blackbox. How your organization views this new reality says a lot about it.
Are you anticipating these undefined transformations with anxiety or curiosity? How are you preparing for something that you don’t fully understand yet, that no one fully understands yet?
Who are you listening to? What are you reading? What conclusions are you coming to?
It would be easiest to wait it out. Not everyone needs to be a pioneer and first mover, right? Let others experiment with the risks.
While it is true that most brands can survive on following an already created path, no brand survives disruption without preparing for the unknown.
When it comes to web3, emerging decentralized organizations, virtual worlds or increasingly niched micro-trends, adaptable, flexible and resilient brands are those that will not only survive, but thrive.
How can brands prepare for this new virtual age?
When faced with the unpredictable and unknown, your attitude and actions dictate your survival rate. Organizations that have fostered a culture of curiosity and change are reaping the rewards now and in the years ahead.
While we observe developments and slowly lift the fog that is currently the web3 discussion, there are a few fundamental actions that brands can take right now.
1. Acknowledge what you don’t know
Brands that have failed to look reality in the eye in the past include Blockbuster, Kodak or General Motors. They either do not exist anymore or have spent a considerable amount of time, money and pains recovering from it. We must remind ourselves that a leader’s job is not the have all the answers, but to navigate uncertainty and recognize and act on opportunity. The best way to do that is to identify blind spots and begin filling the blanks as web3 technology and economy evolve.
2. Code resilience into your brand and organization
Resilience [rĭ-zĭl′yəns]: The ability to cope with and recover from setbacks, unforeseen events and disruptive forces.
Resilience begins in an organization’s culture. Learning from failures and successes, creating perspective diversity, fostering a space for feedback and experimentation — all these are cultural corner stones of resilient organizations. Resilience also needs to be embedded in the nuts and bolts of the business: In the numbers, risk assessment, financial stability, investor expectations. It has to be very clear that business does not take place in a controlled environment with a linear progression. Provisions for learning and evolution phases of the business need to be possible, without creating the cut-throat anxiety that will shake an organization’s cultural health.
3. Stop recycling old systems and begin building new ones
Disruption triggers transformation. Whereas change takes place within the same system, transformation means a rewiring and the creation of something completely new. We need to understand that old systems developed in the 2000s or even earlier need to make room for completely new ones. The brand systems, blueprints, frameworks will no longer be valid. New ways of thinking and operating will replace them. The sooner you and your organization understand this and begin acting on it, the smoother an already bumpy ride will become.
4. Invest in your foundation, continually and unapologetically
When you are crystal clear on who you are, what drives your actions and what value you create within and outside your brand, you can see a path through the thickest fog. Call it brand building, dna, communications — your brand foundation is your core, your strength and your identity, and it’s what gives you stability in uncertain times. Brands that understand how to use their foundation to keep (internal) talent and (external) audiences thrive through business transformation.
When you transform your business, create new categories, or approach new target groups, your brand foundation is the core that provides an anchor for your employees, partners and most loyal customers. It is what prevents these groups from feeling completely lost and out of touch with your brand and its new direction. It helps make sense of the shift or pivot. It is the fertile ground you plant the new seed of your business in.
5. Explore and experiment
Now comes the fun part. With the first four in place, you are now able to experiment with new possibilities. In a resilient organization, failed experiments can make way for new theories and opportunities. New systems can help create speed, efficiency or even an advantage over the competition. A strong brand foundation facilitates clarity, purpose and trust. Identifying blind spots can trigger creativity.
Corporations especially need to embrace a more explorative attitude if they want to smoothly transition into this new web reality, following a more experimental and open-minded approach toward products, marketing and partnerships. Admittedly, this is challenging considering shareholder pressure and investor satisfaction. But maybe even here the coming years will create new systems and organizations where profit will no longer be the predominant metric.
To conclude, we must remember one thing:
We don’t know what’s on the horizon. We don’t know if anything that is making the headlines today will disrupt business and society in the predicted intensity. We don’t know if DAOs are viable. We don’t understand the implications of digital currencies on the world economy and power order. We don’t have a playbook.
But we do have our smarts and adaptability, an inherent human skill when we manage to overcome our automatic mode of comfort in habit. Now is the time to listen, explore, collaborate and experiment — for brands, organizations and individuals. Let’s approach it with a little more considered preparation and less change anxiety this time around. After all, do we really want to keep hearing management consultants telling us “People are afraid of change”. Let’s prove them wrong and gradually build the new world.
About the cover art
I chose this art piece to reinforce the importance of having a strong core in place. AI-artist Champ Panupong Techawongthawon describes it as follows: “The orb centrepiece stays concrete and strong to ensure that everything is operating smoothly with the AI. With a constant flow of energy revolving around it, it creates trust and accountability in the system.”
Image by DeepMind via Unsplash