Strategic Management of Blockchain

Blockchain and other distributed ledger technologies (DLT) hold the potential to impact a wide range of business and social domains. Due to its foundational nature, blockchain has been widely discussed and applied, and can mean very different things to different people. Some see it as simply a means to incrementally enhance trust, security, and accountability in established business networks, while others see it as a vehicle for fundamentally transforming our social, political, and economic institutions. Despite its origins in finance, the potential of blockchain stretches far beyond cryptocurrencies, with use cases spanning across supply chain and asset tracking, land titles, insurance, construction, healthcare, energy, charity, voting, and social media. Proponents advocate the use of blockchain in enhancing individual privacy, digital security, and the ownership of personal data and intellectual property (IP), and in providing a secure platform for running other technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), the internet of things (IoT), permissioned big data analytics. Given the breadth of its potential, combined with the range of applications we’ve seen thus far, it’s perhaps unsurprising that blockchain has frequently been touted as profoundly disruptive1, a giant hoax2, and many things in between. The investment dollars are beginning to speak for themselves, however; recent years have seen a surge investment into blockchain-based solutions across a myriad of areas, Worldwide spending on blockchain solutions by large companies and governments alone is projected to go from US$2.7 billion in 2019 to US$15.9 billion in 2023.3 Amidst the current cacophony of aspirations, lofty promises and hype, and skepticism and disillusionment, it is critical for business leaders to understand at a basic level what blockchain (and similar DLT) can do, why it matters, and (crucially) when it matters for their business. This entails comprehending the broader issues and trends that could fundamentally transform their business over the longer term, whilst parsing out the realistic use cases for today. In addition, leaders must be able to critically evaluate the barriers to adoption, and the strategies available for implementing and scaling blockchain solutions.
The goals of this course are to help participants gain a foundational (though not heavily technical) understanding of blockchain technology itself, expose them to some of the broader social and economic issues that blockchain promises to disrupt, and provide a set of lenses for critically analyzing the unfolding emergence and adoption of blockchain and related technologies. Participants will gain a basic understanding of blockchain’s technical underpinnings, though the focus is predominantly on the promises that blockchain holds for business and society, how it can change how value is created and captured (along with associated changes in viable business models), and how to identify and overcome challenges to adoption.
The six course sessions are designed to go from understanding the basics of blockchain technology and how it can be applied directly to augment current processes (sessions 1 and 2), exploring the longer-term potential and broader issues and discourses around blockchain (session 3), before dialing this back to evaluate the limitations to these utopian visions, and explore how firms can strategically approach blockchain technology over the short and longer terms (session 4). Next, we adopt the perspective of a firm that has settled on a blockchain solution, and look at how its leaders can evaluate and overcome barriers to adoption and scaling (session 5). The final session will bring everything together, by having participants design and present a blockchain-based solution to address a grand social challenge (e.g. climate change; global pandemic; etc.) (session 6).

Course Date & Time

Wednesdays, 7 - 9 a.m. (Vancouver time)