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Interview: The Maturing Crypto Market

In this interview with Hackernoon, IwriteICOwhitepapers.com founder Grace Rachmany discusses the current market and what leadership skills are required to take the industry to the next level. High level summary points of the interview:

Management for the 21st century: What it takes to be a leader.

  • The crypto space is maturing. While the price of cryptocurrency has taken a dive in the last six months, it doesn’t necessarily affect people who actually work in the crypto industry. Working in the crypto industry is different than owning cryptocurrency. “Asking me about investing in cryptocurrency is like asking someone in a Fortune 500 company about investing on the stock market.”
  • If you’re working in a blockchain company, then not a lot has changed except maybe you have less cash. Organizations are looking at burn rate and runway differently than when they had almost infinite cash and even when they spent it, they didn’t have less cash in dollars because the Ether price was rising.
  • The good news is that this is forcing organizations to mature and to make mature business decisions. It’s a transition from “teenager” to “young adult” for the industry. Everyone in the cryptocurrency industry needs to behave responsibly now.
  • The industry is still experiencing a shortage of blockchain programmers and a shortage of staff in every area.
  • For people raising money through ICOs, the amount of money in token offering is still on the rise. However, almost all of that money is through private investors and face-to-face roadshows rather than public sales.
  • Regulation around ICOs is increasing worldwide. Technology for custodianship and security is starting to emerge.
  • Relative to other industries, this industry is maturing faster than expected. It’s a good thing and it will have impact faster than expected.
  • What is a DAO? Decentralized or distributed means the organization is not managed by one hierarchical system. In fact, even in centralized organizations, there is a limited amount centralized managers can do from the top. Similarly, large organizations are distributed throughout the world. So even in “centralized” organizations the new principles of management are becoming increasingly relevant. Autonomous means every part of the organization runs on its own. That is, if they didn’t get funding or orders from the central organization, they can still operate. The internet is like that. If you get rid of one unit, you don’t kill the organization. Al Qaeda is like that. You can’t battle it because it’s so autonomous and so distributed.
  • When you talk about objectives, there are different types of values and objectives. Google seems to have objectives and despite the value “do no evil”, it appears that the objectives, ultimately, justify the means. So despite their stated values, the actual organization is not functioning accordingly, for whatever reason.
  • Values are what we all agree with. In DAOs, transparency and honesty are essential. If there is no one management entity, everybody has to have access to the data. Everyone also has personal values for the organization, such as being innovative or customer-oriented. Those are personal values of the organization.
  • Example: Once of the decentralized file storage DAOs decided that it’s essential to have privacy. As a result, they will not accept fiat currency or credit cards. It’s crypto-only because they decided as a value that the only way to truly be private is to ban credit cards which keep private information on file.
  • Alignment is clear. There are guidelines and protocols, and then each team has objectives and each individual has their goals. As a leader you create clarity around this.
  • Who is a leader? In a decentralized organization, everyone is a leader. Leadership is declaring who you are as a leader, for example, “I’m going to develop this security feature in the code.” Once you declare that you can get other developers on board, an then you are a leader, simply by your declaration of leadership and your ability to get others to follow.
  • Each person declares their leadership. Every single organization in the blockchain is making a declaration about a problem they want to solve. As an organization, that is a Declaration of Leadership. Within the organization you also declare your leadership.
  • How does it all hold together? That’s radical responsibility
  • The two foundations are Radical Responsibility and Communication Skills.
  • Radical responsibility is looking at everything and seeing what the real results were, and looking at what might not work and what is missing and to pick up the missing pieces.
  • That doesn’t mean you don’t need project management to make it hold together. One of the declarations is “we need a project manager.” I have heard leaders say that if everyone is 100% responsible and follows a certain communications procedure, you don’t need project management. I don’t believe that. Project management will never go away. It may be more fluid.
  • Today hierarchy means you can over go up. If you are a team leader today it’s a ‘demotion” to go back to some other job. We need to rethink our mentality to be more fluid and effective.
  • If we use the same mentality to program artificial intelligence as we have today, we are going to get more of the same. We have amazing artificial intelligence today, but most of the artificial intelligence today is focused on how to get people to buy more stuff that they don’t need.
  • We need to shift how we think about this or we will get the same results from decentralization that we had in centralization.
  • You might look at a project and think that the person who is good at setting goals and making structure is a different person than the person who is in charge of developing a prototype, who might be a different person who is in charge of testing. The person who is great at creating processes isn’t the right person for managing building of a prototype. So the “team leader” could shift within the lifecycle of the team.
  • Artificial Intelligence will know what people’s talents are there.
  • Communications is everything. We live in a world where we have an individualistic way of looking at our communications. For example “I said this.” Actually, if we look at our communication it also includes what we heard, and whether what we said landing with the person we spoke to.
  • Our current communications environment is “competitive.” Like: I vote for these guys and you vote for those guys. Our company competes with that company, etc. All of our communication comes from an assumption of competitiveness.
  • The basis for communication today is competition. It’s me or you, it’s us versus them, it’s dog eat dog. Within that, it’s very difficult to just accept what other people said. Within that it’s difficult to create consensus.
  • In blockchain we talk about consensus and voting mechanisms. But if our mechanism for communication is based on competition, you won’t get far. As soon as you “vote for the best idea” you stop all discussion.
  • If we have healthy discussions we might not have to vote after all. If you go to voting too quickly, you avoid getting to the optimal solution. You don’t have time to look at all the options.
  • You could look at every discussion, instead of from your personal point of view, from the point of view of all the people in the organization, or everyone you serve, or even from the point of view of humanity as a whole. Instead of “what do I think”, it might be, what would humanity as a whole think if it were looking at this problem. If the goal is to get the optimal solution, it becomes important to listen to everyone else’s views.
  • We had experiences where a discussion that’s fully open ends up at a solution that is radically different from the starting point, but everyone suddenly agrees even though the discussion started out with us thinking we had a complete disagreement.
  • Often just the act of hearing everyone out eliminates the need for a vote.
  • For an organization one of the most useful tools can be to simply request, at the start of a discussion, to listen to the conversation through a shared filter. For example: We want everyone to listen to this conversation from the context of “what would have the most benefit for everyone involved?”
  • It leads to better decision and a better sense of community.
  • If we really looked at everything from the perspective “What’s best for humanity?”, some questions would be obvious. For example, is it best for humanity to have any advertising at all? If all information is accessible, which it is today, is there any purpose whatsoever to advertising except to distort your decision? People might have different perspectives on that. What are the circumstances under which advertising is good for humans. Today, nobody asks these questions from the perspective of all of humanity. You can ask these questions at any scale. “What’s best for all the shareholders in our company?” is very different than “What’s best for all the stakeholders in our company?”
  • Communication is a skill like anything else. Tech people tend to think you can learn to program but if you have a “personal problem” that’s different. Actually there’s training for that. There’s training to become a better communicator. There’s training to become a better leader. There’s training to become a better husband or wife. Take the stigma away from that. It’s not because you’re messed up. It’s just a matter of training.
  • The biggest hack that’s relevant to the conversation is around listening. You can avoid a lot of debate and bad feeling in conversation when other people have the sense that you really heard them. So the hack is “Pause”. When someone says something, just pause before you answer. Make sure the person gets the sense you listened to what they said before you shot back with what you have to say.
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