For this week’s Workplace Intelligence Insider Newsletter, I interviewed my good friend Jeremiah Owyang. Jeremiah focuses on how disruptive technologies impact corporations. He has forecasted and covered technologies including social media, the collaborative economy, the autonomous world, blockchain, and more. Jeremiah is frequently quoted in leading publications and cited in books, the press, and other media. A frequent speaker, Jeremiah has been featured in “Who’s Who” in the Silicon Valley Business Journal, and his Twitter feed was named one of the top feeds by Time. Jeremiah is an advisor to multiple blockchain/crypto companies, he writes a Web Strategy blog, is active on Twitter and LinkedIn, and has his very own crypto coin called $JOW.
Can you give us a brief overview of Web 3.0?
Large companies and enterprises often copy consumer trends, as they did with social media and mobile apps, and this time will be no different. On the broad internet, the vision of Web 3.0 is that people will be in charge of their own data, identity, and monetization. They’ll be empowered to do this through decentralized technologies like cryptocurrency (or “crypto”), which are enabled by a technology called blockchain.
On the consumer internet, early adopters are utilizing blockchain technologies, such as crypto coins, to amass wealth. They are also using social tokens, a form of crypto that focuses on benefits like voting or access, and creating and selling NFTs, which are digital collectibles and assets. These same technologies will slowly be replicated within the workplace — I’ll paint a picture of that future vision later in our discussion.
What are social tokens, and how can they be used in the workplace to reward employees and drive engagement, retention, and other key business outcomes?
Social tokens are a form of cryptocurrency that is typically based around a brand or influencer. Think of them as fan loyalty points, but with a few upgrades: they can be used as software to unlock experiences, they can be changed over time, and they can also include features such as NFTs. Social tokens are increasingly being used by creators and influencers, many of whom have their own branded economies and use tools like Rally.io to offer their coins.
So how could social tokens be used in the workplace? First, they could be used to reward employees, who could then redeem the tokens for perks and experiences. Second, employees could be given these tokens as a way to help them invest in their financial future. That’s because in some cases, social tokens can increase in value and could later be redeemed for currency, whether crypto or USD. The third way that these tokens could be used is simply as a form of compensation. There are already a number of instances of employees (and celebs and politicians) being paid in crypto.
For some organizations, getting on-board with this new form of cryptocurrency could be key for their long-term success. As companies are struggling to attract and retain talent during the “Great Resignation,” new programs are needed to incentivize today’s tech-savvy employees. Social tokens could be used to reward tenure, recognize employees who go above and beyond, and help keep employees engaged. For example, employees could receive social tokens for completing a key project, attending a training course, for every month of tenure, or for being the top team player within a department.
But you may be wondering, how are social tokens different from regular gamification points or company reward programs? For one, the tokens could increase in value as more employees use them over time. Some projects could be suited to economic models called Token Bonding Curves, where the value of the tokens increases as the supply increases. Also, the tokens could be used to unlock special experiences on the intranet. For instance, employees who reach a certain threshold of social tokens could access premium Slack channels or marketplaces to redeem points for company-provided perks or special events.
Let’s talk about NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens). What are they, and how can they be used in the workplace?
Perhaps you’ve heard of the NFT movement, where consumer space creators are selling art on marketplaces like OpenSea, Rarible, or Foundation. You may have heard of Visa buying a Cryptopunk or Coca Cola launching its own NFTs. The NBA, NFL, and MLB have launched game clips or images of popular stadiums for sale. And Marvel, Disney, Star Wars, and DC Comics have all launched NFTs on a marketplace called Veve. If this is a topic that interests you, check out my post where I’m tracking the large brands in the NFT space.
In the consumer internet world, NFTs are rising in popularity among digital influencers, collectors, and tech early adopters. They can also be applied in the workplace. In the near future, we’ll see businesses adopt NFTs for two primary use cases: supply chain management and product records.
Regarding the first use case, companies can use blockchain to keep accurate records of where a product is along each step of a complex supply chain. For example, blockchain is being used by large companies like Walmart, where many suppliers and partners are moving millions of products per day. Secondly, companies that have products that are suffering from counterfeit replicas or unlicensed third parties will use blockchain to verify the provenance and originality of a physical product among partners and their customer base.
In addition to their monetary value, NFTs have other use cases as well. For example, how can they be used to verify worker credentials?
Have you ever visited someone’s LinkedIn Profile, only to find yourself wondering: “Are these person’s credentials as accurate as they claim?” Well, if so, you are not alone. Because of these concerns, which are often well-founded, we may see institutes of higher learning or employers offering verified certifications using blockchain technology.
Blockchain provides an immutable record on a distributed ledger, which means it offers increased transparency and a decreased likelihood of tampering. Organizations could issue NFTs in the form of digital assets that provide proof of collegiate degrees, certification courses, or tenure. Every certification or degree would have an associated NFT image that could be clicked. Viewers could identify the source, whether it’s a university, employer, or training institute.
This would mean less fraud from workers, and it would help everyone in the business world verify who is truly qualified in terms of experience. Unlike self-provided credentials on LinkedIn, NFTs would be issued only after an individual has completed coursework, a degree, or their employment at a company.
What are your predictions for the future of Web 3.0?
Just as we saw with the rise of Web 2.0, I predict we will rapidly see the adoption of Web 3.0, an internet where people actually own their data, identity, and equity. This will shift power to Web 3.0 projects and users and away from the giant tech behemoths, especially Facebook. Of course, the large tech companies won’t go down without a fight. That’s because they too will adopt these same technologies. For instance, Twitter is already rapidly integrating cryptocurrency tipping into its platform, enabling NFTs to be visible from profile pages and more. It will certainly be interesting to see how employees and companies adapt to this new movement!
I hope you enjoyed this Q&A, and be sure to join the conversation on LinkedIn!