The Digital Transformation Awards 2022, hosted by ITWC, concluded with a provocative panel discussion surrounding the two hotly debated emerging technologies: cryptocurrency and the metaverse. Moderated by Claire Carrington, executive director for the Canadian Blockchain Consortium, panellists were Rick Huijbregts, global smart cities lead at Stantec, and Jonathan Anderson, vice president of digital transformation enterprise at Aviso Wealth.
During the closing panel of the Digital Transformation Awards 2022, Huijbregts broke down the tech client base into two groups: one that thrives online versus another that is more traditional and less flexible to adapt.
He explained that companies tend to go for the lowest common denominator because that’s the least risky and the safest bet in accepting technology, but it’s not necessarily the best approach.
Many consumers and businesses alike lack the understanding of new technologies like cryptocurrency and metaverse, and their adoption cost for partners.
“There’s already so much that we need to do to remain competitive,” said Anderson. “And for us to think about innovative ways and try to get ahead and be proactive, to either bring in cryptocurrency or imagine what wealth management might be in the metaverse, it’s just a little overwhelming.”
Conversely, it’s easier for startups and early adopters because they’ve built their foundations on these new technologies.
“I think there’s a huge uphill battle in having people shift from a financial ROI [mindset]: if I invest x, then my return is y. How do we turn this into sustainable ROI and think about people’s well-being, social value, environmental value and finance being one of them….and so create almost collaborative ecosystems to tackle the challenges?” said Huijbregts.
Finding the right balance
What can businesses do to encourage staff to propose transformative changes? It comes down to where the company is situated on the adoption curve. Early adopters and traditional businesses have vastly different expectations when it comes to risks. It depends on their comfort level and environment.
Anderson said that some organizations don’t necessarily need to adopt an aggressive innovation strategy. For some it, it’s reasonable to find a balanced approach.
“Change is expensive, we don’t know if all the latest trends are actually going to take off and actually turn a profit.”
But Huijbregts disagreed.
“I find that doesn’t make sense,” he argued. “But it’s also a way that could in itself be a debate, because I think maybe for large financial institutions, keeping up is good enough. But I bet you there are organizations out there that keeping up may be on the path of destruction and not survival. And so I guess it depends a little bit on what sector you’re in, and maybe the size that you are, and even there I would be cautious because I think there’s, particularly in the retail business, a large [number of] companies thinking they have kept up but that don’t exist anymore.”
Blockchain and the metaverse: just fads or emerging opportunities?
The role of blockchain as a business function remains a polarizing debate. Cryptocurrency in particular is still shrouded in controversy.
“I still find it mind-boggling what it all is,” Huijbregts said. “And then you see some celebrity speak up on Twitter about it, and then suddenly, prices go up or down. And I suspect that 90 per cent of the people out there don’t really know yet what this really means. So educate yourself. Learn what these technologies are.”
For this sector, Huijbregts recommends keeping an open mind about emerging technologies.
“Don’t laugh when a small startup comes up with a solution that seems disruptive, because then it likely is disruptive,” he said. “At the leadership level, create an appetite for…a willingness to cannibalize your own business or you’re going to be left behind.”
The value of cryptocurrency is still up for debate. But for businesses diving into the space, having a leader with an innovative mindset can smooth the journey into uncharted territory.
“Maybe the solution is to hire an innovation person not from your industry…because competition may come from all different angles, it may be a whole different type of company,” said Huijbregts. “Take a perspective of a different industry into the mix that really shakes things up. Maybe it’s not one or the other, but at least create a forum with diverse voices and diverse perspectives that really challenge the status quo rather than maybe keeping it grounded in established practices or concepts.”
The panel agreed that the same principles apply to the metaverse. And while it’s unclear how that space will play out, there’s concrete evidence of underlying opportunities.
“I think it’s going to take some time for metaverse to actually catch on,” said Anderson. “It is catching on right now, but it really needs to be adopted by everybody. So I think there’ll be lots of opportunity, lots of time for that to be accepted by the general masses. I think in the metaverse right now you’ll see it’s a lot about marketing and having brand awareness in that space.”
“I believe it’s going to be inevitable,” said Huijbregts. “And I think every business probably stands to benefit from at least hopping on the train and understanding what’s going on. They don’t have to drive the train, but to be on the train and sniffing this out and be a part of this journey.”