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By now you’ve heard that the technology made famous by Bitcoin–blockchain or distributed ledger technology–is poised to change the way we do business. Blockchain technology is still in its infancy, but companies in nearly every industry and every corner of the globe stand to benefit from or be upended by it. Although technical hurdles remain, blockchain-based solutions will transform the way we do business, record data, and exchange value. No one knows for sure when the shift will take place, but it is likely to happen more quickly than the last breakthrough technology—the Internet—which took more than 25 years to mature into the game-changing technology that it is today. Created in 2008, we are nearly a decade into the development of blockchain as a technology. Companies and governments are already making investments to explore, design, pilot, and patent blockchain-based solutions. How will your company gear up for the coming revolution?
If you have already begun your intellectual journey with blockchain, but are struggling with how to introduce it into your company, then here are three steps you can take to get the buy-in needed to launch a blockchain initiative.
Researching blockchain can send you down a rabbit hole of information. For most people, the mechanics of the technology are not intuitive, but you don’t need to know hashes, hard forks, nodes, or nonces to understand the impact or utility of the technology. It is more important to know what the blockchain can do, than how it does it. There are many articles and video tutorials online that explain blockchain technology and offer an excellent introduction. Find the ones that resonate most with you. Once you’ve taken that step, there are several ways you can accelerate your self-education. First, sign up for a “blockchain” Google alert. The links you receive each day will give you the latest information about how the technology is evolving and the diverse ways that companies and governments are experimenting with it. Second, order a good book about blockchain, read it, and leave it out in your office to spark conversations with colleagues. Last, but not least, go to a blockchain conference. This is hands down the best way to get acquainted with the technology and the burgeoning community that is innovating in it. You will not only accelerate your understanding of blockchain and begin to build your network in this space, but also return to your office with the infectious energy, passion, and enthusiasm of the blockchain community.
"Although technical hurdles remain, blockchain-based solutions will transform the way we do business, record data, and exchange value"
You will need champions, both internally and externally, to launch a blockchain initiative. You probably already know who your internal champions are. They are the executive level decision-makers who can green light or block a new initiative. They are the open-minded, energetic, and entrepreneurial line-unit managers whose support you will need to design, test, and scale any solutions you design. It helps to have an external champion as well—a blockchain innovator or entrepreneur whose knowledge, passion, and outside perspective can provide added credibility and who can better answer some of those knotty technical questions. Ideally, they have a solution that fits your business model in one way or another. If you’ve gone to a conference, or even a local blockchain meet-up in your city, then you are on your way to finding that external champion.
I spent six months walking around the office telling anyone who would listen about blockchain, but I was mostly met with quizzical stares and skepticism as I attempted to explain what it was and why it was important to our business. How did I finally breakthrough? I started by doing the things above. I read a lot, attended a conference, and networked with anyone I could. Eventually, I connected with entrepreneur whose business model and professional background aligned well with the mission of my firm. He also brought a remarkable level of passion and enthusiasm not just for his solution, but for the power of the technology generally. I then identified no more than a half-dozen people in my company—a combination of executive-level decision-makers and some of the most creative and innovative senior managers from our business units—and invited them to a two hour workshop led by the blockchain entrepreneur. Getting that group in the same room to learn and then design blockchain applications within our business broke the dam. The energy in the room was palpable and within two hours, we conceived a dozen potential solutions. From there, I had a draft road map for the initiative and the support at every level needed to form an internal working group. This workshop laid the foundation for a strategic partnership to explore, design, and test blockchain applications in our business. We are now in the process of testing one solution that has the promise to deliver cost-saving operational improvements and create commercial value as well.
If my experience is illustrative, then you too can introduce blockchain into your company by getting educated, finding your champions, and getting organized. Start today, because tomorrow will be here before you know it, and by then the revolution in your industry may be underway.