Digital Leaders Blog

don tapscott (2)

It’s not very often that a single book changes your life. In my case, it was two books, both published twenty years ago.

Until the mid-1990's, I was following a typical University career path – teaching International Business/International Marketing, researching and publishing in academic journals.

The seed of change was planted in 1996 when i read Being Digital by Nicholas Negroponte, MIT Media Lab.

The digital age is coming and it cannot be denied or stopped. We are discussing a fundamental cultural change. Computing is not about computers, it's about life; being digital is not just being a geek or Internet surfer or mathematically savvy child, it's actually a way of living and is going to impact absolutely everything."

Even in those early days, it was time to #adaptordie (Brian Solis). How many brands, indeed individuals, have become digital dinosaurs since then?

While the seed of change had been planted, it was the second book, The Digital Economy by Don Tapscott, which accelerated the personal transformation. The author presenting a thought provoking analysis of how new technology and business strategies were transforming industry, markets, the dynamics of competition and rules for business success.

Two decades later, almost every prediction made by the author in the mid-1990's has come true.

When Don Tapscott speaks, it is time to listen. His early thoughts have been further developed in a series of other books published over the last two decades, the most recent of which is entitled Blockchain Revolution: How the Technology Behind Bitcoin Is Changing Money, Business, and the World.

The ideas expressed in the book have been summarised in the manifesto of the Blockchain Research Institute set up by the author and summarised below:

  1. The Blockchain represents the second era of the Internet; a true paradigm shift ushered in by decentralised ledger technologies.
  2. Like the Internet of information before it, blockchain will upend business models, disrupt industries for the good and threaten the position of incumbents.
  3. Blockchain technology holds vast promise to solve many of the planet’s problems, including climate change. It has the potential to address the unintended consequences of the first Internet era - the erosion of privacy, security, economic inclusion, intellectual property rights etc
  4. Central banks should convert their fiat currencies into digital ones. Governments should embrace blockchain technology to improve operations, increase transparency and accountability.
  5. All functions of management will change as the technology reconfigures firm architecture and competitiveness.
  6. Blockchain standards will be required to speed progress.
  7. The rush to innovation will produce countless failures and fraud but the fundamentals of this new paradigm are sound. Cynics dismiss it at their peril
  8. There are many implementation challenges to be overcome; the technology remains relatively immature and arcane.
  9. Stewardship of this resource is critical.
  10. The new paradigm calls for a new generation of leaders. Vested interests will fight change, leaders of the old will have difficulty embracing the new.

You can access the full Manifesto here.

As always, comment and feedback are very welcome.

Jim H

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According to a recent article by Don Tapscott, published in the Harvard Business Review, the technology most likely to change the next decade of business is not the social web, big data, the cloud, robotics, or even artificial intelligence. It’s blockchain, the technology behind digital currencies like Bitcoin.

The article presents an excellent overview of emerging blockchain technology and its likely impact across a range of industries.

While blockchain technology is complex, the basic idea is simple - 'a vast, global distributed ledger or database running on millions of devices and open to anyone, where information and anything else of value (money, titles, deeds, music, art, scientific discoveries, intellectual property, election votes etc) can be stored securely and privately.'

On the blockchain, trust is established, not by powerful intermediaries like banks, governments and technology companies, but through mass collaboration and clever code. Blockchains ensure integrity and trust between strangers. They make it difficult to cheat the system.

While much of the current hype around blockchain focuses on the potential to fundamentally change the financial services industry, based on a two-year research project, Don argues that it will have a much wider and more profound effect, transforming business, government, and society. Blockchain technology can take networked business models to a new level, supporting a whole host of breakthrough applications supporting enterprise collaboration and creating a better sharing economy.

'In the mid-1990s, smart managers worked hard to understand the Internet and how it would affect their businesses. Today, blockchain technology is ushering in the second generation of the Internet, and if companies don’t want to get left behind, they’ll need to dodge the innovator’s dilemma and disrupt from within.'

You can access the full article here.

In a related video interview, with transcript, on the McKinsey website, Don explains why blockchains have the potential to revolutionise the world economy.

A second interview with his coauthor and son Alex Tapscott can be found here - What you need to know about blockchain technology

MIT's Sloan Management Review carries an excerpt from their new book Blockchain Revolution

For a brief overview of how two completely different industries are beginning to use blockchain please see 'Why Airbnb and other travel brands are interested in blockchain technology' and 'The latest customers for the technology behind bitcoin are Nato and the US military'.

You may find the following video from Futures Lab to be useful in explaining the basics.

A useful overview of how blockchain works in financial services can be found here.

As always, comment and feedback are very welcome.

Jim H

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