Thinking Of Bitcoin Like A Human Resources Department
This is an opinion editorial by Maxx Mannheimer, a former sales account manager with a background in training and industrial-organizational psychology.
The technological innovation which Bitcoin represents is rarely apparent at first glance; the societal implications of that innovation are even less obvious. Those who don’t engage directly with the technology and speak with other Bitcoiners may completely miss the broader significance of what is happening with Bitcoin. The Bitcoin community has been called a cult and an ideology. I prefer to think of it in a simpler term which is grounded in fact: Bitcoin is a tool. Many things can be said of what the tool is and how it functions, but ultimately I believe it is a tool of comparison and measurement, much like a ruler or caliper. The manner in which we interact with Bitcoin as a tool is one of personal skill.
Throughout this article I will use the term “Bitcoiner” as a shorthand for those who engage with the network. I find it important to clarify that, as I use it, this term does not denote any kind of personal identity, but rather as a reference to an individual who uses Bitcoin. To illustrate the semantic difference I will invite you to consider the title of carpenter or electrician. These terms do not comprehensively define these individuals, but they are useful for a brief description.
Through a similar occupational lense, I have found that inspecting Bitcoin through the perspective of organizational development has been useful in my understanding of the dynamics and implications of the technology. Bitcoin represents a completely novel form of organization. One which is entirely decentralized and in which the individual participants are not required to meet or interact directly in order to create value. This article will extend the metaphor to consider what a human resource (HR) department may look like in this decentralized organization. I am aware that HR is seen largely as a drain on business goals, but I would argue much of that connotation filters down through legislative requirements. Human resource works can be a boon to a thriving business if managed correctly.
Some Bitcoiners seem to be repulsed by the idea of any collective approach to coordination. For those who feel an aversion to collectivism I would like to propose the following stipulations. The act of coordinating with a group is distinct from identifying with a group. The former is cooperative teamwork, while the latter is an illusory extension of the ego. Any initiative which asks an individual to forgo their personal needs in service of a group will reduce individual liberty. Inversely, any task which aligns personal interest with that of supporting Bitcoin will amplify individual liberty. This consideration is only effective if used on a case by case basis and not as an extension of one’s personal identity with a conceptual group.
To clearly outline the overarching goal of a Bitcoin HR department I define the intent as follows: Supporting the participants in the network to reach their full potential as individuals in service of the network reaching its full potential as a collective. Due to the decentralized nature of this system the traditional thinking around how a department functions will need to be shifted dramatically. For example, there will not be a system in place for legal compliance, hiring, firing, performance review or compensation. Users join and exit the network on an entirely voluntary basis. Users are compensated based on their own behavior in relation to the software. All participants in the Bitcoin ecosystem are free to fulfill the functions of any metaphorical department or none at all. However, in the interest of promoting the resilience of the Bitcoin network, I believe these functions are incentivised to take place because everyone using Bitcoin can benefit from them.
The first HR function that will be relevant to Bitcoin is that of an onboarding and training process. Onboarding is the process of welcoming a new participant to the organization and directing them to the resources they will need to be successful. Bitcoin.org seems to be an appropriate place to send newcomers, as it is set up for exactly the purpose of making an introduction of the technology.
Every individual has a unique learning style based on their personal history and dispositions. Sometimes there will be resistance in the adoption process due to misunderstanding, misinformation or mistrust. If that is the case, it may be wise to specifically tailor onboarding processes for different people or to suggest specific books based on the unique profile of the person who has made the inquiry. For example, someone who leans towards the conservative side of the political spectrum may be ready to read “The Bitcoin Standard,” while someone who is more progressive may connect more with “The 7th Property,” “Check Your Financial Privilege” or “The Price of Tomorrow.” Reading any of these books will help someone develop an understanding of Bitcoin. Reading all of them will help to hone the ability to suggest books to others. If someone isn’t willing to commit to reading an entire book it may be better to send a blog post, youtube video or specific podcast tailored to their interests.
Over the years I have noticed that most people are not thrilled to talk about Bitcoin if I launch into a rant about it. It is best to wait until they are genuinely curious about it to provide them with valuable information. People typically don’t enjoy being told what to do or pressed into solutions they did not ask for. However, if you can pique their interest without being obnoxious, by all means do so. At the end of the day the biggest attraction to Bitcoin is the “Number Go Up” (NGU) technology. When the time is right, you won’t have to sell Bitcoin to anyone, but the on-boarding process will remain relevant.
I know this is Bitcoin blasphemy, but in my experience it is best not to push too hard on new participants to self-custody or to run a full node. More tech-savvy users will be ready to jump in headfirst, but for the majority of users it is best to wait until they have gotten their feet wet before laying out all the best practices. Bitcoin can be an overwhelming topic to approach and being inundated with a torrent of new information and hardware requirements may do more harm than good. My general recommendation is to put off the self-custody talk until the person you’re working with is holding a large amount of bitcoin that they would not want to lose. This varies between individuals and if someone loses bitcoin because they didn’t self-custody then that is an unfortunate part of their learning experience.
It is extremely easy for newcomers to be drawn into the flashy marketing of centralized altcoin scams. It is important to explain the difference between bitcoin and altcoins early on. Some people need to experiment with altcoins in order to discover that they are garbage. If this is the case I would suggest letting them do so without judgment. Trying to force someone into your worldview is likely to backfire and alienate whoever you are speaking with. That being said, I always reiterate that if someone does not commit to the due diligence to understand Bitcoin, they cannot understand the broader topic of cryptocurrency. In all the hype around NFTs, Web3, ICOs and whatever else is popular this week, there is a tremendous amount of monetary history being ignored.
Unfortunately, searching for “Bitcoin” on Google or YouTube will inevitably pull up a lot of unimportant garbage and scam videos. If you plan to assist someone with the process of purchasing or storing their coins safely it is best to walk them through in person or to select a video series which focuses specifically on Bitcoin. Buying from a more reputable exchange like Cash App or Swan and avoiding any content creators who talk about “crypto” will cut out 90 percent of the scams. Never sending Bitcoin to a wallet you don’t have the keys to will knock out the remaining 10 percent. For privacy sensitive users, choosing an exchange method which does not participate in KYC (Know Your Customer) may be preferable. After someone starts buying Bitcoin it is helpful to check in with them periodically to offer your support in their understanding and gently remind them: “Not Your Keys, Not Your Coins.”
One area in which many organizations outside of Bitcoin seem to fail is that of genuine and continuous support of achieving individual goals. Inversely, it seems that Bitcoin is inherently oriented around genuine and continuous support of achieving individual goals. The clearest personal impacts which result from embracing Bitcoin as a unit of account are that of reducing time preference and of increasing independence. These benefits come with time and study, but gradually they liberate Bitcoin users from the hamster wheel of the continuously debased fiat monetary network. This results in more long-term goals, less stress about future financial security and greater consideration of the long-term implications of decisions.
Development along these lines will take a unique form for each individual, but some themes seem to be emerging. For example, Bitcoiners tend to value natural foods which are nutrient rich, low in chemical processing and sourced from shorter supply chains. I have noticed a number of Bitcoiners on Twitter swearing off alcohol, cigarettes, soda and other addictive substances. I have seen Bitcoiners promoting weight lifting, meditation, sunlight and fresh air. The overarching theme I have witnessed in the Bitcoin community is simply that of liberating oneself to pursue passions which are intrinsically rewarding rather than doing meaningless tasks just to tread water. These trends carry a certain common sense which is often lost under the constant stress of financial insecurity and debt.
The escape from the iron maiden of debt can be a harrowing process. This transition often takes the form of a radical divergence from social norms followed by a new sense of liberation without bounds or direction. Over time I anticipate there will be more direction laid down by the pioneers who crossed the threshold first. For example, it would be wonderful to see an online Bitcoin library emerge which takes BTC donations as votes for various books and documentary films. With a bitcoin-based voting system, articles of the highest value to the network will rise to the top and catch the interest of other participants. The donations could be used to support Bitcoin education globally or to accomplish other tasks which the community votes upon.
The community aspect of Bitcoin is easily overlooked by anyone who hasn’t witnessed the growth of Bitcoin Twitter over the years. Bitcoiners on Twitter frequently ask each other for advice on what products to buy, which to avoid and many…
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