The future of money is not just about money

March 3, 2011 by  

I really enjoyed the energy and ideas at the Future of Money & Technology Summit in San Francisco on Monday (kudos to organizer Brian Zisk!). The energy level in the room was very high. You can get a good sense of the day by reading the Twitter stream for #futureofmoney. One of my favorite Tweets, from Mickki Langston, said

@mickki There are 2 groups present: those who want to expand their financial empire, and those who want to change finance completely

This dynamic made for some wide ranging conversations and stimulating discussions.  But even the ones wanting to profit from the system are going to do so by breaking the old systems.

The thing that united everyone was a belief that new currencies are and must emerge. I also heard a lot of comments that equated currency to vocabulary and currency to trust. Some of the most advanced “currencies” to date are inside gaming communities and, of course, programs like frequent flyer miles. But the range of possibilities is much greater from banks of time, knowledge, trust and relationships—which is visible in the diverse organizations represented at the conference.

I haven’t focused a lot on currencies per se, although this is something that my friends Dan Robles and Jay Deragon talk about a lot. But as I digest what everyone was talking about, I think that the currency conversation is really about finding new and much richer ways to measure value that gets created in interpersonal and inter-organizational connections. The reason people feel the need to use a different vocabulary is that current concepts of measurement are so limiting. As Arthur Brock said on our panel discussion:

Just like translating a steer into pounds of beef breaks the system integrity of having a cow.  If you translate all your measures into pounds of beef and are only managing in those terms, you can’t manage the wholeness of a cow.  We need value metrics appropriate to the level where the value resides in order to properly interact with that value.

To continue Art’s point, we need measurements that will measure the health of the steer, the environmental consequences of raising the steer and the health consequences of eating its meat. This kind of message was repeated over and over during the day.

The panel I moderated was called Monetization of Intangible Capital. The participants were Dan Robles, Arthur Brock and Greg Wendt. We had a wide-ranging discussion about the elements of intangible capital (human, relationship, strategic and structural knowledge) and all the implications of measurement. Dan taped it and I will share the recordings when they are available.

The audience was so fired up that we started taking questions from the very beginning. I was thrilled when one participant came up to me afterward and described our panel as an abstract painting of the entire scope of the future of money while most of the other panels were photos of details of different parts.

So what is the future of money as we know it? It will remain but it will be enriched by a much greater appreciation for other kinds of value. After my day at the conference, I felt we were getting much closer to an economy that values and, therefore, can leverage the best of its intangible capital.

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