Design Thinking for Blockchains, Web3 Summit 2018
Last week in Berlin, we participated at the Web3 Summit with our Design Thinking for Blockchain Workshop (Node 01). With this node, we introduced design thinking into Web3 stack as a collective and creative process for protocol design. This blog post is a quick summary of our experience and the group work that took place in our workshop.
Overall, the workshop at Web3 was a rewarding experience. Coinciding with a great program of talks as well as being in the same open space with 10 other nodes was a proper challenge for a focused workshop. Even then, we had a nice turnout and a productive session.
Considering blockchains will have a significant impact on all walks of life, we believe protocol design should be an inclusive activity for all disciplines and experience levels to prevent creator biases being baked into platforms.
In the same spirit at Web3 Summit, we were happy to host a diverse set of backgrounds including engineering, design, business development, law, community management, and investment. They all had one thing in common: they were dreamers of an exciting future unfolding in front of us and they all wanted to take part in shaping it.
Participants of the Web3 Summit workshop worked on a protocol idea for a decentralized education system. They modeled a distributed ledger to keep verifiable records of continuous support interactions that extend beyond an organized event between instructors/teachers and trainees/students, that anyone can read/write, and owned or controlled by no single authority.
As Vivien Leung (one of our participants) pointed out after her experience, this workshop is a systems design exercise that starts with people, not just an introductory session to blockchains.
We started with mapping ecosystems and journeys, identified pain points of centralization and opportunities to disintermediate. Participants learned and utilized hands-on design thinking methods including stakeholder analysis, network modeling, journey mapping, and structured brainstorming. In the end, participants discussed the group work, expected outcomes and implications.
We facilitated the workshop through following the steps in our Decentralization Method Sheet:
1-Model the ecosystem
Participants started with mapping the network of actors and interactions in a training/workshop ecosystem. Then, they identified three actors that trust each other for a training/learning session, a trust loop: Instructor, Student, and Organizer.
With the trust loop identified, participants walked in the shoes of these stakeholders and articulated their needs, priorities, and challenges to discover moments of trust — how trust is implicit in the interactions and what could go wrong with the intermediary mechanisms that broker Instructor-Student interactions.
Once the journeys are laid out, participants explored the trust loopholes (mistakes & misuses) and reframed them as opportunities. The goal was to brainstorm ways to disintermediate centralized mechanisms that are exercised by the Organizer stakeholder. We ended up with many ideas for disintermediation. Some of these were nascent and needed more thinking. Some of them immediately started to take shape with discussions among the group.
4-Design the protocol
Participants picked one of the opportunities based on impact factors and started speculating on a fictional protocol as a means to disintermediate. They outlined a decentralized mechanism for capturing a support moment. They discussed concepts such as atomicity, verifiability, transparency, and privacy. Most importantly, there were particularly heated conversations around incentives, which makes the people-first approach particularly relevant in this system design exercise.
5-Brainstorm Applications & Implications
Finally, we discussed as a group potential implications of this fictional protocol and imagined what type of applications may emerge upon it. Lots of exciting ideas came about such as extended learning networks and new breed co-working spaces. Important questions also came up such as the value of certification, verification of learning, and intellectual property.
We received helpful and constructive feedback from our participants both for the flow of the workshop and how we frame it.
Is this a collaborative session for protocol design? Or is it a way to think about organizational transformation and decentralization is a means to that purpose?
Marko Prljic (one of our participants) pointed out that they were expecting a reductive problem-solving workflow and instead, experienced a diverge-converge rhythm that pushed them to question whether they are addressing the right problem as they are thinking about a particular solution.
We are grateful for the great participation and feedback. Needless to say, this is work in progress and we are excited to improve for the better with more sessions.