As investors, we know diversity drives innovation.1 Actively incorporating universal and unique perspectives, experiences, and backgrounds on a global scale foster transformative technology. Inclusive and collaborative innovations, such as digital assets and blockchain,2 exemplify financial technology (FinTech) and services that can change the trajectory of economies while benefiting many global participants. Some examples:
- Creating products and services for our modern world and our future requires activating diverse representation and inclusivity within FinTech advances. Supporting entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds can address gender, racial, ethnic, and cultural divisions in financial services.3
- Digital financial services and blockchain technology can help reach the approximately 1.4 billion adults unbanked globally4 by offering access to microloans, remittances, shopping, business funds, and personal savings through a smartphone.
- The long-term success for the digital assets ecosystem will rely on building collaborative, inclusive, and diverse networks. Blockchain networks have the single pursuit of growing and expanding by adding users. Blockchain protocols and transparency verifies trustworthiness, eliminating biases based on race, gender, sexual orientation, age, socioeconomic status, and additional identity characteristics. Implicit homogeneous identity biases can also produce sameness of thinking which tend to operate in more centralized environments. These inclusive innovations will not reach their full potential if their development includes biases.
- Diversity of thought within blockchain ecosystems allows for rich innovation, benefiting overall network growth and activity. Technologies like blockchain enable an open-source environment for rich innovation where the typical biases seen in centralized decision-making, such as management structure hierarchies, are overlooked. In decentralized networks like blockchains, a user must also be a participant in the network and its community in order to be a part of any decision-making related to the blockchain’s development or innovation. A larger, inclusive and diverse network can attract a greater number of participants, which can significantly impact the future success of any blockchain network.
- Creativity of thought from including many diverse voices and perspectives drives performance, opportunities, and innovation. Inclusion minimizes the hierarchy of management structures and builds on success and experience.
Creating workplaces with intentional collaborative, inclusive, and debiasing practices can power great development environments that lead to positive outcomes beyond FinTech and the digital assets ecosystems. These actions enable trust and diversity that can impact innovation and business growth. To learn more, watch our discussion and read the following highlights from our conversation with Frans Johansson, CEO of The Medici Group, author of The Medici Effect, and entrepreneur.
REGINA: How do you think about diversity and inclusion? And whether it’s the talent piece or how those touch into your space from a talent perspective, and how do you believe it has evolved over time…?
ROGER: Thank you for that question. Digital assets are really built on the framework of these blockchain networks. And I really want to key in on something that Frans mentioned with regard to diversity of your network, of who you are operating with and who you are in community with. I think that’s a really important dynamic as it relates to the blockchain digital asset expansion and opportunities.
What we are finding, time and time again, is it is not about competing, it is about collaborating. Your competitors become your collaborators to grow an overall network activity. It’s super powerful to be understanding that the diversity of the people with whom you interact, the communities with whom you interact, is so incredibly important toward the future success on any journey in digital assets.
And then the other component is the inclusion that you’re speaking about. I found time and time again, it is kind of squashing the hierarchy of management structures to include as many voices as possible inside of the pursuits of innovations. I think one thing that is sometimes lost is that there are some very transformative innovations that occur, but by and large, innovation occurs as a derivative of something else that’s already happened. We’re building on top of a success of something that already happened. You don’t want to eliminate wisdom and experience inside of that, but what you do want to do is marry that experience with a diverse creativity of thought.
And it doesn’t matter what your age is. Most of us are exposed to different types of things. And so, as we’re constantly trying to rebuild new products and services to meet the demands of future customers moving forward, it’s super important to include as many voices and perspectives that you can in order to tease out what might be great opportunities and ideas.
FRANS: And Roger, if I could build on one thing you said there, because this is a first principle of innovation, that you’re really recombining the existing concepts into new ones. This is the core idea of The Medici Effect. Any innovation you look at has that dynamic. The opening sample of the book is how an architect is creating a building that consumes 90% less energy by drawing inspiration from the designs of how termites design their sort of homes, their columns, on the African savanna. And so, by combining these concepts, they’re able to sort of break new ground.
And we are living in a world today where technology just makes this so much easier. And this is something we could get into later on, but I agree. We’re unleashing innovation because we’re recombining concepts, communities, networks, ideas, perspectives…
ROGER: A lot of my experience in work activity is, as we talked about, is in digital assets and digital assets are really riding on top of blockchain networks. And quite frankly, a blockchain network, to grow and expand, doesn’t care who the development teams are. It doesn’t care about the gender, race…age of any of the collaborators on the network. It is just having the single pursuit of growing the network.
And it eliminates oftentimes the biases that can occur in more centralized organizations. It’s a really interesting environment to be working in because blockchain is all about decentralization and networks and some of these traditional kinds of barriers or things that sit inside of us. I mean, we’re being intentional in our pursuits of building diverse and inclusive communities.
But what we’re interested to find in these blockchain network activities, that it kind of feels like already a core dynamic of that network, that you don’t have to look the same, you don’t have to have the same educational backgrounds, you don’t have to have the same community that already is operating in these centralized environments. The success of these projects is really built on a diverse network of inclusion to be successful in the long term. And we have a lot of resources in this space because we believe that these environments will be really great outcomes and development environments for some of the technologies that we will be experiencing and power the next years of technology innovation in the economy.
REGINA: What I love too about the comments, and as I reflect and hear you both is, it doesn’t happen by accident. You absolutely have to be intentional about it. And your leaders have to actively make sure you’re not going to your go-to people all the time and actively including other people and thinking about this as you’re moving your business or your teams forward. Because you can unintentionally exclude people if you’re not always thinking about this.
As I always go back to the leaders because I do think as you go out through your environment, you are the one setting the stage. As you said, Roger, setting that culture of what we intend to do and how we do business from the D&I perspective.
So let me ask you about this. As we look ahead to the next few years, what advice do you have for our colleagues and for us as individuals, as we move along our own innovation, growth, and inclusion journeys?
ROGER: Well, one constant in life is change. And to be able to stay in being persistent. We’re super fortunate, as an organization. Franklin Templeton is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year and you only stay in that existence, and in that market presence and in that business space, if you are persistent during periods of change and are continuously rebuilding and remaking your community of business partners toward facing the challenges of the future. And so, the intention of working toward a diverse employee base that allows you to unleash these creative opportunities in front of you is just so vital to the lifeblood of the organization.
And I think the other thing as a manager, a leader, or an encourager, as the case may be, is just the fact that you give others on your team permission to do the same thing. The encouragement is to give them permission. Because so many times… I find that people, especially that are newer to the organization or maybe younger in their career, they think that they need to be inside of these boxes. And clearly you have responsibilities that are part of your role in an organization. But giving people permission to expand their own communities and their own networks beyond just the linear departmental place where they may have an organizational reporting line is just so super important to be able to unleash and be able to compete in this world where change is going to be ever constant.
FRANS: Yes. And couple of things I would say, as an individual, the need to reinvent, the need to innovate, the need to rethink or reframe what it is that our job is, what success is, are we going to accomplish it—that is going up. And so, the first thing that I would say is look for environments where you have the best shot at making that happen.
Look around, ask yourself, “Is the environment I’m in a homogeneous environment or a diverse environment?” Because if it is a homogeneous environment, you’re probably not setting yourself up for the best probability of breakout success or continued success. You’re probably trading similar ideas, similar concepts, and eventually the world will have turned on that particular view. So, that’s one thing I would recommend people to do for themselves. And if I’m not, can I help increase the diversity of the environment I’m in? Or do I need to seek another environment? Those are things that I think are important.
Now, if you’re looking to help to increase the diversity of the environment you’re in, enhance the innovative potential, the performance, then it becomes critical to start tapping into these different types of networks . . . unexpected, because you’re not going to be able to find these people in the exact same places you’ve found the group you’re in. So, you have to start diversifying those networks.
The second piece is: “How do I contribute to inclusion?” And we talked a lot about the leader’s role in this—and there’s clearly a role for leaders—but actually there’s a role for all of us in helping to drive inclusion, both in support of our leaders, but we are dealing with peer-to-peer conversations and interactions all the time. What does it mean for me to foster an inclusive environment? Because these things are also reinforcing an environment where there is no trust, or where it’s a lot of exclusion, or people are not being able to bring their whole selves to work, will tend to become increasingly that way. So, if you want to reverse it, everybody actually has a role to play. So, the leader has something and that’s a piece. But I have a role to play in any interaction in my peer-to-peer interactions.
And the third piece I would say is that we are living in a completely unprecedented time when it comes to innovation. Yes, we’ve heard this before, but it is really coming to fruition now. There are technologies that can be used to enhance our own goals and dreams and visions, or just projects. You don’t have to be that grand. For a while, we had many years where new technologies were really driven toward just having people look at ads, for instance. And that was kind of, “Oh wow! We have brand-new technology.” Let’s have people look at ads. But it is shifting now toward being highly productive. . . all this access to platforms and products, access to a rapidly developing AI . . .
I would say as the third part, start looking at and learning about these platforms and technologies. They are going to help you. And then what’s left is that power of your creativity. And that goes back to the first point around diversity. So, these three things hang together. You can be more. You can make more things happen than ever before. And as long as you have a diverse group that you can tap into, your team or your network, you will also think of more innovative things than ever before.
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1. Sources: Phillips, Katherine W. “How Diversity Makes Us Smarter,” Scientific American, October 4, 2014; Forbes Insights, “Fostering Innovation Through a Diverse Workforce,” retrieved July 10, 2023.
2. Blockchain is a shared, immutable ledger that facilitates the process of recording transactions and tracking assets in a business network. An asset can be tangible (a house, car, cash, land) or intangible (intellectual property, patents, copyrights, branding). Virtually anything of value can be tracked and traded on a blockchain network, reducing risk and cutting costs for all involved. Source: “What is blockchain technology?” IBM, retrieved August 8, 2023.
3. Source: Barclays, “Why fintech needs diverse thinkers,” December 15, 2020.
4. Source: World Bank Group, “COVID-19 Boosted the Adoption of Digital Financial Services,” July 21, 2022.