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Blockchain and Design Sprints: Complex Problems Need Structured Approaches — A Fresh Tilled Soil & BTblock Collaboration

By Richard Banfield on ALTCOIN MAGAZINE

Richard Banfield
Jan 8, 2019 · 9 min read

Is Blockchain An Appropriate Technology For Today’s Product or Application Problems?

Given the recent volatility in the crypto space, there is a growing sense that the underlying distributed ledger technology (DLT), or blockchain, is poorly understood and possibly too complicated to be considered an appropriate solution for today’s problems.

To value any technology you must first understand the customer problem you’re solving.

This is where the Design Sprint comes in.

Are We Forcing A Sophisticated Solution On A Simple Problem?

In 2018 we saw companies and media outlets preaching this technology as the holy grail for all industries so in a sense, yes, there were firms forcing a sophisticated solution on a simple problem. Caution is justified. However, with the right use case, the application of DLT is certainly the best technology for the problem.

Does Your Organization Need A Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT)?

To borrow a consulting term, maybe. If you’ve read the countless articles from the past 12 months you’re probably aware of all the advantages that DLT has to offer for dozens of industries: streamlining supply chains, cutting out the middleman, “millions” in cost savings, greater transparency, increased security and oh so much more.

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Specific Non-Crypto Applications

While Bitcoin and cryptocurrency may have been the first widely known uses of blockchain technology, BTblock addresses a wider spectrum of use cases for DLT implementations.

Supply Chains

“One of the main applications where we see DLT as having the greatest impact is with Supply Chains”, says Brian Gale, Partner at BTblock. “Take recent salmonella outbreaks that halted to the romaine lettuce market as an example. A DLT platform combined with other technologies (i.e. IoT sensors) could be a game changer for pinpointing the origin of a tainted head of lettuce”.

Customs and Border Control

Another great example is the digital supply chain of global trade. Maersk, one of the world’s largest global container shipping companies, partnered with IBM to create TradeLens. Using blockchain smart contracts, TradeLens enables digital collaboration across the multiple parties involved in international trade. The benefits from a blockchain application in global supply chains range from the opportunity for reductions in transit time, paperwork errors, reduce steps for tracking shipments to the potential to save millions of dollars annually.

Practical Approaches To Establishing Readiness

The Design Sprint Hybrid Model

Our approach takes the traditional Design Sprint five-phase methodology and adds blockchain subject matter experts to the team of key stakeholders from within the client organization. By adding the blockchain domain experts, we’re able to answer DLT questions while the Design Sprint is running — think about it as embedded research. We call this the Design Sprint Hybrid Model. This model, lead by an objective facilitator, allows our clients to identify areas of opportunity that address organizational challenges through the lens of DLT. The Design Sprint process puts a premium on answers so it’s inherently practical by nature.

Don’t Ignore The Feasibility Questions

We want to caution readers that a Design Sprint doesn’t answer all questions. To evaluate any type of technology, product or solution for an organization, it’s important to answer these three questions first:

  1. Will it help you meet your business goals?
  2. Does it improve on existing business processes?

Pairing Expertise With A Prototype Mindset

Design Sprints act as a catalyst to bring the right people in the room and build consensus around the potential application. There’s a structured quid pro quo in these sessions. Each expert brings value that when applied to the scientific approach results in a 1 + 1 = 3 outcome. The blockchain experts generally will not have the same level of domain expertise as the client to apply DLT to a complex manufacturing process and the client domain experts cannot simply study up on blockchain and then apply it to their situation.

Having both blockchain/DLT and domain experts in the room enhances the chances of producing a substantial implementation that will engage end users and drive adoption.

The Blockchain or DLT is a complex concept. It is not something that can be easily worked through by the right team in a one or two-hour meeting. Even the best group of experts need time to analyze, explore, critique and prototype a working concept. For example, in our kickoff Design Sprint with BTblock we spent extra time on day two examining how it would work to apply blockchain to a process where there are multiple rounds of batching in a supply chain and source traceability is a challenge. When we tested the concept with stakeholders they informed us that this was the challenge that had stopped others in the industry from doing something similar but when presented with the concept that was developed in the sprint, they saw a path forward that had not been there before. Hybrid Model Design Sprints facilitate these sorts of breakthroughs.

The Customer Breaks The Tie

In conclusion, we’re excited to see Blockchain gain some traction while reminding readers that it’s not a panacea for all problems. The most encouraging trend we see comes not from the supply side, but from consumer demand. Despite cryptocurrency volatility, a new report by a blockchain-focused research company, Clovr, asserts that there has been a spike in people using cryptocurrencies to send remittances. This growth is in part due to the high costs incurred when using more traditional methods to make cross-border transfers. We anticipate similar demand-side adoption in other industries soon, especially given the potential advances in safety, security, and privacy that DLT can enable, all qualities customers rightly prize.





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Richard Banfield

Written by

Dad, husband, cyclist, product and design transformation leader. I write books on design & product.

The Capital

The Capital is a financially incentivized social micro-publishing business platform

Richard Banfield

Written by

Dad, husband, cyclist, product and design transformation leader. I write books on design & product.

The Capital

The Capital is a financially incentivized social micro-publishing business platform

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