Vital Management Skills For Web3
New technologies require new skills and obviate existing ones. The appearance of artificial intelligence like ChatGPT and decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs), based on blockchain and smart contracts, shift the skills that future professionals will need to thrive. These skills will center on problem definition and consensus building, but each with a new twist.
Of course, to help me explore this topic, I asked ChatGPT to identify the business skills necessary to optimally use ChatGPT. It generated generic results: communication, problem-solving, analytical, technical, interpersonal and project management skills. Not helpful.
This example perfectly highlights the vital skill of asking the right question. This has always been a valuable talent, but its significant has changed. Recall the allegory of a person looking for their keys at night under a streetlight. A passerby asks, “Did you lose your keys here?” The person replies, “no, but this is where the light is.”
When data was scarce, an errant question lacked the information to answer it. There was limited consequence of asking silly questions. Now that ChatGPT has tapped the wisdom of the entire internet, any question has an answer. Even irrelevant or misguided questions have seemingly plausible replies.
In using ChatGPT in my classroom, I ask students to document the question that finally generated a useful reply. And I ask them to take cross-check ChatGPT’s response with other reliable sources. (See my article on teaching with ChatGPT.) The skills that managers will require in the Age of AI is iterative persistence and a persistent responsibility for the output.
A database holds information. Right now, most databases are owned by a single entity. For example, Visa owns and control your purchase history. The company decides the rules for collecting, using and storing your data. The new technology of blockchain stores the same information, but in a way that nobody owns it. It is decentralized.Just as data can be decentralized, so too can decisions. “Smart contracts” are automatic rules that users accept before they enter into a binding obligation. If the pre-determined conditions are met, then the smart contract exchanges funds. These are considered human-less trust-less mechanisms because they perform – or refuse to perform – based on pre-set conditions. There is no interpretation and no adjudication.
At the confluence of decentralized blockchain and automatic smart contracts lie decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs). (See my article on DAOs.) These are founded by humans who set the goals the rules of the entity. Thereafter, DAOs are automatic. Because they are so simple to establish and enact, they do not charge a commission. This is dramatic compared to the 25% that Uber takes or the 6-12% that Airbnb takes as commission from each transaction, and ensures their proliferation.
A DAO’s rules can be changed if a majority (i.e. 51%) of its participants so agree. For popular DAOs with hundreds or even thousands of participants, this is the only route to change the rules. It is a high hurdle, so only amendments that are clearly widely beneficial will win sufficient backing to be implemented. This problem has been researched thoroughly under the theory of Collective Action: how to achieve consensus in the absence of a central authority. We see it in international agreements, community cohesion and team collaboration. Yet these instances presume that the participants can monitor each other’s actions. This requires that the participants are known. However, in DAOs, the participants are anonymous. With DAOs, we are in unfamiliar territory.
As a further complication, DAOs must be able to work quickly to react to changes in the market. Yet in most instances, consensus is not quick. This is the second skill that the next generation of managers will require: how to garner support from a diverse audience.
Throughout the business world, we value diversity as a key input to achieve better outcomes, both for the company and for the communities that they serve. The reciprocal of this declaration is that there are skills to improve the management of diverse groups that we have yet to understand or appreciate.
As a student and professor of strategy, I do not have deep insight into these necessary skills. Many scholars of leadership – including my peers – have solutions to this problem. What I do know is that one way to forge this skill is to force managers – and business students – to participate in teams of widely diverse participants – people from different cultures with different values and methods of communication – and to hold them accountable for the team’s outputs. This is the foundation of the next generation of skills that accompany the next generation of technologies.