Institute for Business Value

Blockchain Explorers are breaking away from the competition

As boundaries between industries continue to blur, new leaders are emerging: the Blockchain Explorers. They are far more open to new possibilities and experimentation. They have the capacity to learn fast and the capability to move even faster. And if past performance is any indication, they’re poised to break away.

Who are the Explorers? Researchers working with the IBM Institute for Business Value discovered them while talking to nearly 3,000 C-suite executives around the world earlier this year for the Global C-suite Study. The Explorers are a small but distinctive group — the most distinctive group we’ve seen in 15 years of C-suite research. They are early adopters of blockchain, a distributed ledger technology that enables improved operational efficiencies, new revenue generation opportunities and counterintuitive means of interacting with customers, partners and competitors.

Explorers’ early experimentation with blockchain isn’t their only distinguishing characteristic. They have distinguished themselves from organizations not considering blockchain — the Passives — in several key ways.

Blockchain Explorers are experimenters

Blockchain technology is at a point of departure, allowing Explorers to experiment, learn and find opportunities to break away. Four times as many Explorers as Passives aim to disrupt new markets by completely changing the rules of the game. They are proactive rather than reactive; 64 percent of Explorers said they recognize the urgency to digitally reinvent themselves, which is more than double the percentage of Passives who had the same response. They also see tremendous value in moving fast; more than half of the Explorers excel at iterating their strategy through rapid prototyping.

Blockchain acts as a trust accelerator by creating a traceable audit trail and validating that commitments are met using smart contracts. It democratizes the trust system by proving provenance through verifiable transactions. Explorers understand this far better than most. They identify the need for increased transactional transparency as one of the main drivers behind their enterprise strategy.

More than half of Blockchain Explorers excel at iterating their strategy through rapid prototyping

 Blockchain Explorers are innovators

Explorers are bold, high-performance innovators; their enterprise strategy is to disrupt rather than defend. They are embracing the power of a radically different business model: the platform business model. This model breaks the boundaries of traditional market exchanges and creates value and network effects from ecosystems. Blockchain-based platforms connect customers, partners and even competitors to create new sources of value. For example, the planned Maersk and IBM blockchain platform unlocks global trade routes by integrating a supply chain of traders, freight forwarders, ocean carriers and customs authorities. Explorers expect this new business model to yield entirely new opportunities to monetize and capitalize their businesses, shift profit pools, and benefit from peer-to-peer exchanges. To that end, two-thirds of Explorers (six times the number of Passives) are already experimenting with or implementing a platform-based business model.

66% of Blockchain Explorers say they intend to adopt a new platform business model

Blockchain Explorers are collaborators

On platform-based business models, the overall strength of the network is only as great as the weakest link. Each participant can either lift the network higher up or bring it down. Likewise, networks require a new intensity of collaboration that shifts strategy from locking out competitors to helping them advance for the benefit of all.

We predict that this will be the greatest challenge for blockchain adoption going forward. While most Explorers understand the need to collaborate with partners and customers, an even greater percentage admit that they struggle with how to collaborate with competitors — even on a selective basis.

71% of Blockchain Explorers say teaming with strategic partners and competitors is important to advance blockchain efforts

Are you ready to become a Blockchain Explorer? Read the full report, “Forward together: Three ways Blockchain Explorers chart a new direction,” to start your journey.


This blog is part of a series of monthly insights that highlight preliminary findings and emerging trends from the 19th Global C-suite Study. The study is based on interviews with more than 10,000 CxOs.

Blockchain lead, IBM Institute for Business Value

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