Industry Insights

10 Lessons: Design Thinking for Blockchain

Over the past fifteen months I’ve facilitated eighteen design thinking workshops to explore the application of blockchain to customer projects.  Most of these (actually 12) have been in the finance industry, and in Europe (specifically 15).  Some interesting lessons and reflections emerge.

First a little context . . .

We use a standard approach for customer projects as shown in Figure 1

Figure 1 – Project Approach

After the vitally important first two “awareness” steps, we start the First Project with a two day Design Thinking Workshop to select the use case then analyse it from a user perspective before deciding how blockchain can best be used to transform the user experience.  This gives clear direction to the agile development sprints that follow.

. . . now the lessons

[1] It’s a BUSINESS workshop

Sometimes participants think the workshop is a technical deep dive and chance to write some chain code!  This is usually because they have skipped the “Blockchain hands-on” module.  We mitigate against this risk by being ultra clear in the workshop invite, scoping documents and participant selection.  During the workshop we use a “parking lot” to record technical questions for answering later so as not to detract from the business discussion.

[2] Use Case Selection is CRITICAL

Sometimes our customers approach us with a business area where they think blockchain can make a difference, other times with a detailed use case.  So we must (optionally) select and always unpack the use case to understand the details, ensuring all participants have the same level of understanding.  This thorough exploration is critical to the success of the workshop.

[3] Hypothesise & test WORKS

Design Thinking thoroughly explores the problem before thinking about a solution.  When I started leading blockchain Design Thinking workshops I was worried that the (pre)selection of blockchain would invalidate this important principal.  This has not been a problem in practice.  I ask participants to hypothesise that blockchain will be a possible solution and continuously test this throughout the workshop.  If we come up with parts of the problem where blockchain is not suited, we call this out and move on.

[4] Business knowledge from customer KEY to success 

We need the customer to explain their business challenge and how the current systems work.  We can then explore together at how blockchain can be used to improve things.  Without this in depth business input the workshop looses its “anchor”.  We seek full time business expert participation during the workshop which will greatly reduce – but is still needed – for the agile development process that follows.

[5] DEV team presence gives FAST START

If the scrum master, UX designer and lead developer can be part of the workshop, the project startup is much more efficient.  Their involvement ensures (a) an early infusion of use case knowledge into the project team and (b) that the workshop output is of sufficient quality & depth to get them off to a great start.

[6] Persona choice is IMPORTANT

Once we are clear on the use case and the business network involved, we select specific persona from the business network.  We then analyse the business problem and improvement opportunity from their viewpoint.  We pick two or three personas, depending on the number of workshop participants BUT do this after considering all possible personas in the business network.  Key here is that personas are prioritised for analysis and never lost.    We can always loop back and consider more persona later as needed.

[7] Consolidation & prioritisation NORMAL

The theme introduced above of prioritisation and / or consolidation continues through the workshop as we need to give clear directions to the DEV team at the end.  But as stated above, nothing is lost and all work products are captured (as photos or videos) and shared with participants at the end of the workshop.

[8] From organisations to NETWORKS

Of the eighteen workshops I’ve facilitated, seven involved multiple members of the business network from the start.  Most of the these “consortium” workshops have been in 2017.  Earlier workshops were instigated by one organisation, with other business network members invited to join after a couple of agile iterations, once the value proposition becomes clear and more tangible.  Both approaches are valid and can work, but cross organisational workshops need care . . .

[9] Networks need LONGER

If multiple members of the business network are involved from the start, we need to build time into the workshop for them to talk, understand each other and exchange knowledge.  Playbacks will take longer as a result, and it’s a delicate balance between timekeeping and allowing time for quality discussion.  We must also discuss what information they are prepared to share, and what they must keep private.  This will become critical as we move into the agile development phase!

[10] Design Thinking is IDEAL 

Yes, it really is!  In one recent workshop, the consortium brought along a requirement and had mapped out user journeys.  I was reluctant to go back to the start, analyse the business network and do persona based analysis.  But I’m pleased I did.  Design Thinking added clarity which helped the DEV team deliver early value and the consortium members explain the benefit of their solution to stakeholders and potential new business network members.

More about blockchain?

These blog posts talk about different aspects of blockchain for business

  1. Boiling Down Business Blockchain
  2. Blockchain Smart Contracts
  3. Blockchain Privacy Services
  4. Consensus for Business Blockchain
  5. What blockchain IS NOT

and these cover some cross industry use cases:

  1. Supply Chain Management
  2. Combating Fake News with Document Provenance
  3. Asset Management
  4. Blockchain for Responsible Business

Director - Blockchain | National Security - CTO Team Europe

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