This post is an excerpt from an upcoming report entitled The Current and Future State of Digital Wallets, which is being shared here as a 16-part series. To receive a copy of the report, please register here and we will get the current draft sent out immediately and a PDF of the final report when it is ready. This is the fifteenth post. For the first post click here, for the previous post click here, and for the next post click here.


Let’s discuss Control versus Influence.

“Control leads to compliance; autonomy leads to engagement.”
― Daniel H. Pink

Everybody wants to control the results we get. It is a natural thing to desire – pick and outcome and then achieve it.

There are huge benefits to having control, but control comes with a cost that increases as an exponential. Controlling too much means you end up losing control because the costs of maintaining control overtake the ability to increase control. Cost grows faster than control.

Way faster.

In software 40-80% of total lifetime cost is maintenance (60%), and 60% of maintenance cost is due to enhancements.

Control-freaks want to be able to make certain that things happen in a particular way. Even those of us that have reformed our ways (say it with me: “My name is [your first name] and I am a control freak!”)

The problems that stem from that misplaced need for control are manifold:

  • Stifling Growth – some environments need to be uncontrolled in order to grow. As a community grows the costs of maintaining control create a natural limiter.
  • Community Suppression – when someone places demands on an ecosystem, other members of the community are likely to either stand back to allow them to do things or back away where their ideas conflict.
  • Lack of Resilience – systems that have rigid control may be strong but they fail when conditions change or when control points are not deeply understood.

“Leadership is not about a title or a designation. It’s about impact, influence and inspiration. Impact involves getting results, influence is about spreading the passion you have for your work, and you have to inspire teammates and customers.”

— Robin S. Sharma

Influence is a power function – each of us can influence far more than we can control. The hard part about influence is that it isn’t nearly as predictable as control.

The rewards that come through influence can be incredible.

STORY Control vs. Influence Example
A quick case to prove the point – Twitter – as an example of the good use of influence and poor use of control.
Successful Influence – Twitter has exercised limited control while allowing the community to create new features. Retweets (RT) and direct messages emerged from the community – they merely created some tools that helped users do what they already were doing. Arguably where Twitter acts to lightly influence its community it grows.Control Failure – In the early days of Twitter the community was expanding rapidly. Tools and apps were being created and they made Twitter grow faster and faster. Then Twitter exerted control on an ecosystem – and nearly died for it. Twitter was inconsistent and they destroyed successful partners by limiting access and developing competitive features. This failure still impacts the Twitter community many years later. Twitter’s CEO Jack Dorsey apologized in 2015 and they continue to struggle to rebuild the Twitter developer community.

In the Digital Wallet space we need to look at the points of control and influence that are really needed. As you look at the various aspects of a Digital Wallet that you need, ask yourself this question: “Do we really need the cost of controlling this?” The answer is mostly likely no. Now we need to ask another question: “What can I influence to be as sure as possible we get what we really need?”

The answers there depend on what parts of a Digital Wallet we need. The basic capabilities described in 4.3. Detailed Capabilities of Wallets & Agents and 5. Agents – Deeper Detail are a good starting point. We can influence each of them in many ways:

  • Help guide Standards by requesting/insisting that our projects use the evolving standards. Participate where appropriate.
  • Create projects that use the open source libraries that are working at the various layers of self-sovereign identity, agents, and Digital Wallets.
  • Start working through use cases inside and outside our Organizations and share the learning with the community. Though the intimate details of a project will be confidential, the general patterns will be universal and relatively generic.
  • Depending on where we are we can influence in different ways:
    • Government should be setting guidelines for industry to work towards.
    • Companies can begin looking at how things change and which pieces of a Digital Wallet they need now and in the future.
    • Individuals can be contributors on many levels: providing leadership, coding in key projects, and doing the deep thinking needed everywhere.

​Help Build the Ecosystem

The Digital Wallet ecosystem is in its early days. The efforts that are underway are just beginning to form what will evolve into a multi-billion dollar ecosystem. We need to understand that early ecosystems like this are a dangerous place to play. For those who are not true innovators or early adopters the best advice is to “wait and see”.

The innovators and early adopters can benefit by starting early. There are three key activities that will ensure success of the ecosystem and of the investment (time, resources, and funds) made in the Digital Wallet space.

Firstly, a focus on activities that help the ecosystem to grow – initially this will be early experimentation and learning. The experimentation and learning will allow key players to build on past successes and avoid failures.

Secondly, the innovators and early adopters who appreciate proper governance will have an outsized impact on the ecosystem. Technology is just one piece of the solution and arguably it becomes commoditized quickly as standards form and functionality becomes common for Digital Wallets.

Lastly, a focus on building relationships amongst different business sectors and even amongst competitors will be crucial. The Digital Wallet ecosystem is going to be enormous – so taking a “piece of the pie” approach won’t work nearly as well as a “grow the pie” strategy.


This post is part of a 16-part series. This is the fifteenth post. For the first post click here, for the previous post click here, and for the next post click here.