There is an excellent clip from the Today Show back in the mid-’90s about the internet’s rise. I encourage you to look it up on YouTube. The clip now is downright humorous and baffling in more ways than one. How far we have come in a little over a quarter of a century. I still remember my first memory of the internet. My dad had gone to a ‘city meeting’ where they unveiled the community’s first intranet. The ‘wow’ factor – a list of city events, our city leaders, and even an online city map, as if we didn’t know our way around town. Bringing us back to the present in 2022, I have to ask myself, what technology advancement or idea are we laughing about or underestimating that will become a part of our everyday life by 2047.
One of those ideas may just be the metaverse. Right now, if you Google the term ‘metaverse’, over 57 million results are returned. With so much information already out there on this topic, it should be easy to find an understanding of what the metaverse is, what it can do, and how it will affect us, right?
It seems the more I read on this subject, the more questions I end up having. As a person that works alongside small and midsize businesses (SMB), I take it upon myself to stay several steps ahead of market shifts and potential disrupters. As leaders and visionaries for our organizations and clients, I believe we must continually move towards the future by aligning our people, processes, and technology/systems.
What is the metaverse?
While I try to educate myself on this topic regularly, I still find it challenging to keep up. My best summary is that the metaverse is the next iteration of the internet, where virtual reality and a digital life converge. To site a good excerpt from a recent Times article, “Whether in virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), or simply on a screen, the promise of the metaverse is to allow a greater overlap of our digital and physical lives in wealth, socialization, productivity, shopping, and entertainment.”
As Mark Zuckerberg continues his rebranding and metaverse vision casting, the opportunities and ideas around how a metaverse can transform our lives are thought-provoking, to say the least. Though my vote may not count for much, to say there will be one metaverse is a far-reaching idea – sorry, Mark. The metaverse will touch and transform our lives and businesses in countless ways.
Looking at just recent news and market stories, they begin to tell a story that the metaverse is not a science fiction idea but is instead quickly moving into a practical solution and specific strategy for businesses:
- Facebook’s rebranding to Meta Platforms
- The sale of NFT artwork; most expensive to date being the ~$7 million ‘Right click and save as Guy’.
- Microsoft acquisition of Activision Blizzard for $68 billion
- Estimated $500 million invested in ‘metaverse real estate’ which could double in 2022 [CNBC].
- Nike filed a lawsuit for trademark infringement related to an NFT.
- Disney has appointed executive Mike White to lead their metaverse strategy.
This isn’t just influencers or TikTok sensations, it is real dollars and real people – it is leading companies preparing to use the metaverse as a vehicle to do business. Because of that, the idea of the metaverse is quickly making its way into strategic planning conversations. The premise that the metaverse may be just another social media vehicle is shortsighted and missing the bigger picture. Though none of us can sit here and fully predict what the metaverse will look like, what issues it will or will not address, or how it will operate, we can see that change is coming. As leaders, we are responsible for listening, learning, and assessing how and when to adapt proactively.
Readying for change
As with many things we deal with as leaders, there is no prescribed playbook that will help guide us through this period of change. The concept of the metaverse presents tremendous opportunities to transform how we live, including how we do business. Though the concepts, technology, and applications may be new or still abstract for some, how we approach this opportunity can follow a proven script.
Maintain focus on the here and now
The day where we all ‘exist’ in the metaverse is still a ways off. While it is essential to follow, learn, and track these developments, as leaders, we must not lose focus on our core business. Stay the course on your business plan and strategic initiatives. As leaders, we must carve time out to focus on the future, but not at the cost of sacrificing our current business without a larger strategy in place.
Do your homework
As leaders, we must intentionally create time to think about the future. There are many viewpoints on this – from setting aside time weekly to full retreats where you’re entirely focused on the matter at hand. There are many ways to make finding this time easier – set up your news feeds to show related articles or find podcasts for your drive to work or your run. Your ultimate goal should be to obtain enough information on the subject to ask the right critical questions about how our industry and business fit into the metaverse conversation.
Plot a strategy that makes sense for your business
Through the exploration and learning stage, we need to start shifting that vision and idea into tangible action planning. Many organizations are not at this stage with the metaverse, but when they are, they will be designing a strategy that still centers around the tried-and-true pillars:
- What goals or objectives do we plan to achieve through this business opportunity?
- What action steps are needed to move systematically closer to our goals and objectives?
- How and in what ways will we measure the success of this project?
Yes, there are a lot of elements and sub-processes within there, but at the core, framing up how our organizations may enter the metaverse space will always come back to these pillars.
Test use cases/experiment
The fun part of any venture for an organization is getting to try, adjust, and enhance the idea. At this stage, we can begin to experiment with opportunities to assess how the metaverse world and our organizations might coexist. Businesses should find opportunities that create space to experiment, obtain feedback, and have an actual application to business practices moving into the future. Just as if you were rolling out a new product line or service offering, what is your organization’s market testing and evaluation process? Lean on that. Again, the metaverse is ever-changing and will bring about new opportunities for the SMB not yet thought of. Place yourself in the future customers’ shoes. How can you enhance that experience like never before?
Putting it all together
Your team has kept the course. Your team has done the homework. You plotted a strategy. You piloted what success might look like. Now, it’s time to move forward. Be proud of what your team has accomplished. As with any business segment, never stop assessing and improving your strategy around it. Congratulations! You are stepping into the next iteration of the internet and writing the next chapter for your business.
This article is not intended to send leaders and their management teams off on a quest to implement their metaverse strategy tomorrow. However, it is intended to cause leaders to pause and think about how the metaverse can impact their SMB or clients. We can sit here and debate practicality or if this concept will ever lift. Fair. But, as leaders, one of our responsibilities is to assess risk and opportunities. So, regardless of where you sit on the conversation of the metaverse, the fact is that you have a responsibility to evaluate its opportunity and risk to your business. If nothing else, begin to have these conversations with your leadership team on how you can best position your organization to thrive and how your business of tomorrow will be conducted.
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