Burning Issues: 2022 Outlook

January 26, 2022

The new year brings fresh opportunities and challenges that will impact society, our lives, and our businesses. Individuals and organizations who can see around the corner, identify emerging trends, and anticipate catalytic developments will be best prepared to mitigate the risk of surprise and find opportunities to capitalize on otherwise disruptive events.

Looking out at 2022, Firehouse Strategies is excited to debut our “Burning Issues” series, which will utilize our team of experts to identify critical trends that we believe will unfold over the coming year. To kick things off, our Senior Strategist & Managing Director Dave Vermillion provides an analytical breakdown of two top-of-mind issues rapidly growing in their respective industry spaces: the cryptocurrency blockchain and cyber ransomware.

Tales from the Crypto: Rise of the Ownership Economy

Over the past few years, we’ve heard plenty about the information economy, the sharing economy, the gig economy, and other emerging innovations disrupting traditional business models. The emergence of new technology and models inevitably leads to debate around how best to regulate these developing disruptive spaces. On the other hand, old-guard companies do their best to adapt or lobby to protect their market position from loss to new entrants. New players must remain aggressive in educating policymakers to prevent misinformed regulation and often the reflexive instinct to simply reject what they don’t understand.

With the growth of cryptocurrency and blockchain technology and the sector’s rapid evolution over the past few years from an arcane curiosity to a major global economic power, we start to see the potential to realize what many have called “the ownership economy.” The ownership economy is not a new concept, especially for employees who have purchased stock options in their company and taken a form of financial ownership stake in their careers. Blockchain technology and cryptocurrency can enable transactions without middlemen like traditional financial institutions and put more power in the hands of creators and consumers.

Peer-to-peer payment networks, decentralized finance applications built on smart contracts, non-fungible tokens, are all enabled by an immutable, secure decentralized public ledger called a blockchain. Fueled by cryptocurrency, these distributed applications make the ownership economy more robust than ever. Entrepreneurs can raise capital by issuing tokens directly to investors. Artists and musicians can manage, monetize, and protect the rights to their creations with greater control. The applications are endless and profound.

The communications challenge that the blockchain and crypto industry now faces is an information gap since the technology is still complicated. This education deficit is exacerbated by suspicion of criminal activity and volatile crypto markets where people are making and losing hefty sums on speculative ventures. Regulators charged with protecting investors from unscrupulous activity have been aggressive and criticized by those who see them overreaching at the risk of stifling innovation. In late summer, the crypto lobby showed its real strength for perhaps the first time when it advocated against what some called a misinformed tax provision included as a “pay for” in the Biden infrastructure bill.

Bottom Line: Moving forward into 2022, expect a brighter light to shine on crypto and blockchain, backed by an industry motivated to educate on the transformational benefits of this groundbreaking technology.

A King’s Ransom: Preparing for Critical Cyber Threats

Ransomware, in which hackers encrypt systems to cripple an organization’s network and hold it hostage for payment, captured global attention in 2021 as hackers seized critical infrastructure serving the United States. From Colonial Pipeline, which carries 45% of all the fuel consumed on the East Coast, to JBS S.A., which produces one-fifth of the world’s meat, ransomware attacks on major companies brought systems to a halt and illustrated how vulnerable our global network is.

While responsible and sophisticated companies consistently refresh their crisis response protocols and conduct regular training to prepare for disruptive events, ransomware of this scale presents a new challenge. As we anticipate potential threats over the next year, it will be essential for leaders and strategic communicators to pressure test their existing crisis response plans, determine their vulnerability to ransomware attacks, and refresh their protocols.

Bottom Line: A crisis is not the time for original thought. Make sure your crisis plan is contemporized to address the real threats of 2022 and train your people to work the plan.