Watching the State of the Union speech Tuesday night I was struck by how the speechwriter stacked up story after story of heroism, tragedy, patriotism and pathos, in order to meet the president’s goal of winning hearts and votes. The stories were all linked in a chain that connected the president to his citizen audience. The connection was brought home by the deep visuals in the balcony seats: a young couple holding the baby they’d adopted from a drug addict; the North Korean refugee amputee who just happened to bring the crutches he’d used before escaping the hermit kingdom; parents weeping at the mention of their murdered children. It was emotional overkill, for sure. But I’ve never met a story I didn’t like, on some level.
For instance, what is better than the blockchain creation story? Did a mysterious man named Satoshi Nakamoto come up with the technology on his own? A great mystery started this tech revolution, and that story is key. While blockchain tech is touted as being a world-changing technology, it can’t escape this simple fact: stories are the most compelling ways that we communicate with each other. Any company or person involved with blockchain should think always about the story they are conveying with their use of the technology. If a company is going to talk about blockchain, then it needs to be involved with blockchain in a wholehearted way. That doesn’t mean it has to embrace the technology if it’s not ready. But it has to be committed to whatever level of exploration it’s ready to engage in. Any attempt these days to just “latch on” to the “blockchain thing,” will be doomed, in the end, by the destructive powers of disconnection.
Ty Montague is fascinating thinker and doer, and a pal of mine. A few years ago he wrote a book titled, True Story, that advocates what he calls, “storydoing.” At co:collective, the innovation company, he co-founded with another sharp doer name Rosemary Ryan, Ty guides businesses towards living their story, rather than just telling a tale. Don’t just talk about what you do, do it, and let your actions speak as loudly as your words. Let your business and personal life embody your story.
This is where the stories in the State of the Union speech last night fell short. For all their drama, they were vignettes, disconnected from the institution telling the tales. Great entertainment, but probably not as sticky as the writer of the speech would have hoped.
And that’s a lesson for everyone who is trying to build a story on top of the blockchain. The hype now is huge, and just mentioning blockchain along with your mission is a sure-way — for the moment — to get a lot of attention. But don’t be fooled by the flattery, because in the long run — and I believe blockchain tech is going to have a very long run — your story is going to have to be true, visceral, and transparent.
As you tell the story of your company and the blockchain, be honest. Be frank about your level of involvement in this technology, whether you’re just dipping your toes into the water, or you’re taking a swim across the ocean. If you don’t understand how it works, say so. If you’re getting excited, that’s great. Let us know. And if you, like most leaders these days, are just not quite sure where blockchain is going to lead you, embrace that uncertainty. Tell the world you are studying. Take a stab at explaining how the distributed network will affect your businesses creative inputs, supply chain and strategy. Be true. Be daring. Be centered. And most of all, live the story that you want to create.