Building Human Connections Before Blockchain: An Inside Out Approach to Web3 Companies

Jawaharlal Nehru (Former Prime Minister of India) and Le Corbusier were the OG Web3 founders! Hear me out!

A significant global shift is underway. Businesses worldwide are embracing Web3 technologies – decentralized systems powered by blockchain – and Artificial Intelligence (AI) at a pace that could make your head spin. The promise is a utopia of decentralized, secure, and transparent systems that fundamentally restructure how we live, work and play.

However, based on my interactions and experiences working with them, the focus seems overwhelmingly lopsided toward technology and jargon. In this great leap forward, are we forgetting something equally, if not more, crucial: the human element? Let’s take a page from the experiences of rapidly developing countries for context (hinting at Chandigarh, India, where I grew up).

In a bid to ‘catch up’ with the developed world, developing countries are in a race to build infrastructure and implement the latest technology. India’s Chandigarh, envisioned by the country’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, and executed by famed architect Le Corbusier, is a prime example (I’m a fanboy).

Nehru envisaged Chandigarh to be “unfettered by the traditions of the past, an expression of the nation’s faith in the future.” However, juxtaposing modernistic city design with a population still being prepared for it underscores crucial learning: infrastructure and technology do not directly equate to mental or cultural development.

Likewise, Web3 and AI companies, focused on cutting-edge technology and reaping its rewards, can fall into the same trap, forgetting the critical role of the human element.

The People Paradox

As we pioneer into digital-first landscapes, the human element – the very fabric that holds organizations together – risks being relegated. Web3 and AI businesses with remote and often dispersed teams may need to pay more attention to the importance of human-centric leadership, a supportive culture, and strong interpersonal connections. The Harvard Business Review’s landmark study on the “The Neuroscience of Trust” underscores that human connections remain the cornerstone of any successful organization, irrespective of the technology it leverages.

Human Connections: The Heart of the Organization

Gallup’s 2012 “State of the American Workplace” survey demonstrated that employee engagement can significantly boost productivity, profitability, and customer satisfaction. Fueling this engagement are simple human connections and a nurturing culture. The fundamental attribution error theory, a concept from social psychology, highlights our propensity to disregard situational factors when interpreting people’s behaviour. In the context of Web3 and AI companies, it becomes vital to acknowledge the unique challenges and potential isolation of remote work.

Leadership: The Guiding Light

Web3 organizations require robust leadership to navigate the technological frontier successfully. A leader’s role isn’t just to guide and inspire their teams internally; they must also construct a coherent external narrative. (Ask me about perception management offline.) Transformational leadership, where leaders inspire their teams with a shared vision of the future, can play a crucial role, as per James V. Downton’s seminal work.

Consider these four steps when building Web3 and AI Culture

  1. Establishing Clear Roles and Responsibilities: Teams need clarity, whether developing blockchain solutions or creating AI algorithms. Clear roles foster accountability and lead to higher productivity. Or they’ll leave.
  2. Nurturing Trust and Collaboration: Building trust can be challenging, especially for remote teams. However, as Paul J. Zak’s HBR article “The Neuroscience of Trust” emphasizes, trust can be cultivated by fostering social interactions, setting clear expectations, and promoting a culture of respect and transparency. Everyone on the team should know what the other does.
  3. Instilling Top-Down Leadership: Effective leaders set the vision, lead by example, and facilitate a culture that encourages learning and innovation. You see, our mammalian and reptilian brains have yet to be digitally transformed.
  4. Reimagining Onboarding and External Collaborations: Given the nascent nature of this space, onboarding programs need to be more than just a process; they should be an experience that introduces and integrates new members into the organization’s fabric, sparking a sense of belonging right from the start. This includes employees, vendors, contractors and third parties. Begin by facilitating easy knowledge sharing and collaboration, fostering a culture of collective growth. 

We must maintain sight of the human factor as we sprint towards a future dominated by Web3, AI, and other advanced technologies. Striking a balance between technology, leadership, and human connections is vital in building successful companies in this space.

The famed psychologist Carl Rogers once said, “What is most personal is most universal.” Le Corbusier also elegantly articulated that “architecture is about creating a way of life.”

As we transition to a more universal, decentralized, and technologically advanced way of working, let’s remember to keep the personal, the human, at its heart – designing not just sophisticated tech solutions but also a culture that cherishes human connection.


By Paul Syng

Paul Syng is a multi-disciplinary designer based in Toronto. He focuses on a problem-seeking, systems thinking approach that can take any form or function.