In an era of unparalleled technological change, staying ahead of the curve can be a tremendous challenge. As usual, the solution is to be found with our fellow human beings. Today's savviest businesspeople are increasingly becoming part of communities designed to give everyone involved the information, ideas, and support needed to find opportunity in innovation. One of these business leaders, Red Chalk Group co-founder Raymond Zenkich has organized a community of his own-the Blockchain Insurance Summit, which will occur on November 8 in Chicago. Here he discusses why community building should be a major priority for every entrepreneur and executive in the digital age.

Q: What are the benefits of building a community around a forward-leaning concept like Blockchain?

A: Communities start and take hold when people see a need to share thoughts, experiences, and even failures around what is often a narrow area of interest. Members of the best groups are able to build a sense of camaraderie, meet fellow thought leaders, and test out concepts. Our community's focus is on blockchain within the insurance industry, which seems almost esoteric at first glance. As it turns out, however, the people tasked to look at blockchain within insurance companies are at the heart of the future of Insurance. Their backgrounds cover strategy, innovation, research, and IT. They are working hard to understand the challenges and opportunities that blockchain represents and see the potential for it to transform existing product segments and to create entirely new products and services. Having a group to become part of gives these professionals a common ground on which to get a pulse on latest technology developments and the most current thinking.??

Q: What are the challenges in building a community around a concept that is currently unfamiliar to a lot of people?

A: Many fields today rely on a lot of very different disciplines. Pulling together so many diverse strands of people can be like herding cats. The solution is to use every tool available to you, from online platforms to real world events and to never dismiss the role of serendipity. For example the genesis for our upcoming Blockchain Insurance Summit came from a chance meeting I had with one of the world's largest insurance brokers. We both shared a common interest in exploring Blockchain applications within Insurance and felt that a dedicated roundtable-type forum was needed to really get into the topic. With only a handful of experts in the world with a real working knowledge of Blockchain and a business background in Insurance, we knew we had to start by tapping into our own professional networks, both online and off. We set out over several months to build relationships, discuss potential topics, work and rework the program, look at calendars, and then ultimately go live with the event. We sent out invitations and held our breath. Organizing a Blockchain event focused on Insurance and geared towards business executives rather technologists has never been done before so we've been overjoyed by how many people have signed up. ??

Q: What is your approach to simplifying complicated subjects so that people in your growing community can best grasp them?

A: Blockchain as a technology is not for the faint of heart. I have a background in Operations Research and in my graduate study had to work through proofs of probability theory. So while I might have an appreciation for deeper Blockchain technology topics, most people are mainly interested specifically in how it applies to their lives and their businesses. With that in mind, I'll be doing a session early in the day of the upcoming Summit specifically designed to demystify blockchain for insurance executives. It's been a lot of work but very rewarding, and the feedback from everyone involved has been tremendous. What I've realized more than anything is that complicated subjects need to be simplified in a way that makes the "so what" come through loud and clear.

Q: How do you see this community evolving over the next five to ten years?

A: Understanding how this community will evolve over the next five to ten years will depend in part on how the technology evolves. Discussions we are having today will be considered quaint a few years down the road. The ultimate strength of this community will come from the different parts of the insurance organizations that are represented. As long as the collective interests are shared, the group will continue to interact and likely move into other areas until it becomes the norm, with everyone from customers to employees to executives benefiting as a result.