In an interesting article in Forbes, Alison McCauley shows how the blockchain is ‘flipping’ the conventional wisdom of MBAs when it comes to understanding competitive advantages. The purist competition is giving way to the collaboration championing.
In practice, it shows that the blockchain has limits, it is neither infinite nor absolute.
The blockchain, while generating an economy of trust, requires extensive collaborative efforts to achieve its full potential.
Allison points out that there is a limit to collaboration among business organizations: the selfish self-interest of each organization. Note that this has been the core of MBA teaching, which encourages collaboration between allies (with shared interests), but not between competitors (with conflicting interests).
The above can also be expressed differently, reaching similar conclusions.
Purist competition is, in reality, the pursuit of self-interest. Some refer to it as ‘shareholder value’: maximizing the profits of the owners of the capital. Based on this, it is admitted that executive managers are entitled to excellent rewards in order to protect such value maximization. And it is also admitted that, in the implementation of the strategies, alliances are made with some competitors understood as ‘strategic allies’ (with shared interests).
The collaboration championing recognizes that, in order to continue winning, it is necessary to join efforts with others that even have conflicting interests. Some refer to it as ‘stakeholder value’: recognizing that there are other stakeholders that, in addition to shareholders, have rights that the organization must also protect (employees, creditors, government, citizenship, etc.). Others go even further by including what is known as social capital and natural capital (environment) and refer to an ‘integrated value.’
Allison points out that the selfish interests of organizations, that is, the maximization of shareholder value, do not allow collaborative efforts to thrive. That’s why he concludes his article with a question:
“When collaboration is the new competition, what then drives competitive advantage?”
This allows me to extend the previous analysis: the current digital transformation has its limits.
In addition to the self-interest of the organizations, two very powerful forces must be added that, although they will not stop the digital transformation, if they are causing their limits to begin to be perceived: (1) the cybernetic threats; and (2) the US-China trade war.
Cyber threats are becoming increasingly strong and generate a significant drain on technological developments. These do not advance fast enough and dynamically given the needs to implement increasingly stringent controls to protect against cyber threats. This is a war without quarter that is intensifying more and more.
The US-China trade war is already proving that technological developments do not have a smooth or easy path. The two colossi of digital technologies have started some combats that, although they will strengthen the digital transformation in the near future, meanwhile things will not be so simple.
The economy of trust goes far beyond the current rhetorical efforts against corruption. It need confidence to be able to collaborate. Collaboration is required to implement the required technological developments in a safe and successful manner.
On the way to it, there is certainly not only the risk of falling behind but also the growing threat of disappearing. Disruption threatens not only the transformation of business models but with the same survival.
To this must be added the social problems (migration, water, poverty, drug trafficking, access, etc.) and environmental problems (climate change, deforestation, etc.).
At the front, a complex horizon is perceived, not necessarily negative, which will require complex solutions.
There are the need of build a new wisdom that goes beyond the conventional wisdom of the MBA. A task that certainly requires the efforts of all.