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Accelerate |  5 min read

Opinion Article: How Design Thinking Addresses The Unknowns Within Blockchain.

Over the past year there has been a lot of noise around blockchain and its potential. Beyond the hype, I’m interested in how blockchain can become a reality for organisations in Australia and New Zealand and how it could work to their advantage.


To be clear; blockchain is not a panacea or one piece of technology that will solve every problem and challenge that exists today. But what blockchain can do is help us to take advantage of new technology as it becomes available.

Many industries are already investigating or using blockchain, primarily the financial services sector, mostly driven by fintech firms and the big banks. The benefits are already being realised. Blockchain has helped to increase the security of the global payments system. It is also in use across supply chains, asset management and cybersecurity. But it’s not appropriate for every market, organisation or individual person and it still has a long way to go to become a commercial reality for many enterprise organisations.

What’s Changed?

It’s now possible to create cool ecosystems based around the use of blockchain, which allow organisations to operate in significantly more efficient ways. The advancement around open systems in some geographies is allowing organisations to manage and manipulate their data better. This enables astute brands to be smarter about what they do with advanced analytics, through to enhancing their customer segmentation capabilities.

Two guys with the same demographics - similar age, with two kids, comparable earnings, living on the same street - are targeted by some brands as being the same. However, they are likely to have very different interests, tastes, beliefs, commutes and preferences – these are their “unknowns”. Companies can now glean vast amounts of qualitative data about their customers, using their mobile phone, to differentiate their service experiences. What they offered their customers three, six or even twelve months ago has completely changed and it’s only going to get tougher to differentiate. Brands that stand still in terms of their offerings are going to get into trouble.


The Ecosystem Point of View & Digital ID

A key premise of blockchain is the connection in a trusted ecosystem. In Asia, many countries have a government-controlled ID system in use. With this already-regulated, connected ecosystem, as well as a drive to have a more open banking system constructed, parts of Asia are employing blockchain to leverage what they can offer in such a connected society. They have now implemented successful blockchain networks on the back of their regulated digital ID and have significantly more open bank frameworks than we have here.

There has been resistance to the Australian Federal Government’s National Digital ID Card for many years due to privacy concerns. However, the first step has been taken with the introduction of digital driver’s licences that can verify a person’s identity from November 2017. What’s really needed in Australia and New Zealand is a harmonised national digital ID to dramatically improve online services across the public and private sector. By following Asia’s lead, efficiency and auditability can be improved without compromising trust or reliability.


Are the Big Banks Being Left Behind?

Blockchain stretches beyond operational level change by recommending new business models that would disrupt traditional banking operations. This requires open bank frameworks, as seen internationally, that our banks have so far resisted. The banks really need to figure out where they sit in this brave new world and what value they can provide their customers to retain them.

The more astute fintech brands have been able to link customers’ data gathered from their social media accounts, their mobile devices and the apps they use. As well as the basic demographics social media gives them, these brands are also able to uncover much richer data, like their customers’ weekly activities, footprint, behaviours, preferences and moods to find out what really makes them tick and how to build a real connection with them.


Design Thinking Addresses the Unknowns

It would be wise for us to remember that while we are excited about blockchain’s potential to radically change our global economy, “Technology is only an enabler, which can help achieve the intention of the person who is using it.” - Jane Chen, co-founder of Embrace. And it would be an understatement to say that there are many unknowns associated with blockchain. Design thinking can help address these unknowns, and potential unintended consequences, by ensuring a user-centred approach is embedded in the entire end-to-end process.

Because design thinking is both a mindset and a methodology, it carries both strategic and tactical implications. It is up to us to re-educate our clients, and ourselves, to understand that the value of design thinking does not begin and end with a workshop any more than the value of design is what a product looks like. Design thinking is not a solution; it’s a process and capability that reveals the holistic functioning and factors of a system – its challenges, processes and opportunities. Taking a design thinking approach offers a proven methodology for uncovering hidden insights, creating alignment, providing clarity and focus, and deliver value early. The ideation process is based on the iteration and testing of an assumed solution, which demonstrates value to key stakeholders before significant investment in the final solution has been made.

Instilling design thinking into the approach for any blockchain initiative ensures that the value to the user takes priority not just in the beginning conception of a project, but throughout the design, implementation and integration within the core enterprise system. Blockchain is a solutions-oriented technology, meaning that even in our corner of the world, it’s clear that we can’t, and shouldn’t, create blockchain ecosystems without design thinking.



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