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How Would You Explain Blockchain?

Updated: Apr 26, 2020

In one sentence and one page how would you demonstrate the impact blockchain technology might have on your business?

We've had several posts uncovering various aspects of the #Blockchain environment recently. This one is intended to take a step back and focus on how to speak directly and succinctly about Blockchain as a whole, depending on how much time you have for the discussion.

My father, a successful businessman, often reminds me, "talk long, talk wrong." I'm still working on that to this day.

My father-in-law, Tom, another successful businessman turned advisor and thought leader, helped me understand it isn't as much what I want to say, but what I want the audience to hear that is most important when speaking or writing. I am still working to refine that skill also.

For a concept as abstract and technical as Blockchain, explaining it can be very difficult. Focusing on what the audience needs to hear is what matters first. The technical jargon isn’t what they need. What they need is probably what they don’t know, presented in a way to draw on existing pain points or understood concepts. No matter the perspective, bias, or opinion one might have about Blockchain, when explaining Blockchain it is ultimately important to show how it could impact your particular business model or industry is really the most pertinent topic to consider for any audience.

With that being said consider this: how would you explain Blockchain in

1 sentence?

1 page?

Explaining Blockchain in the proverbial elevator

You may be familiar with the trusty elevator pitch where you’re in a metaphorical, or maybe a real, elevator and the person you want to have a conversation with, perhaps an influential leader in your company, maybe your boss, steps into the elevator. What do you say? And how do you say it if the elevator is only going up 3 floors. You’ll only have about a sentence to share your point and it will need to be made pretty clear while delivering it quickly.

Here’s how I would lead into Blockchain in 1 sentence, with the help of a semi-colon, particularly if asked “what’s new?” as one might reasonably be asked in an elevator:

“I'm learning about an emerging technology that may finally address a couple of our industry's longstanding pain points through the use of highly secured sequential files that could track virtually any type of activity or data while being unaltered; because it is new and abstract it will require a different mindset for how we do business.”

Perhaps this quick comment will instigate further dialogue. One can only hope that’s the case in a short elevator ride. But you’re not going to sell Blockchain to someone in a 3-floor elevator ride by jumping right into the technicalities. Frankly, I don’t even think Blockchain should be “sold”. You might end up shutting down the conversation altogether no matter the person’s grasp of or perspective on the technology. Hopefully the comment above would demonstrate your open-mindedness and investment of time to protect the business.

Now to prepare what to say when we have those extra minutes to chat in a little more detail with the influential leader.

Explaining Blockchain in one page

So, you’ve piqued the interest of the previously mentioned influential leader in your company with what sounds like an emerging technology that will help solve longstanding industry problems but will require a new point of view. How do you approach the conversation when you have more time to discuss it?

Whether in an update with your boss, in a room with your peers, or conducting a staff meeting with your team, what would you say if the topic of Blockchain were to arise?

Here’s how I would explain Blockchain if only given a page:

Healthcare is a complicated industry with inefficient processes and broken trust among stakeholders. This is a great environment for a new approach to begin solving age old problems:

  • Providers and payors haven't figured out how to set up clinicians to deliver care efficiently and the patients are caught in the middle

  • After several months of setting up a provider, one would think providers submitting claims AND payors processing payments would be straightforward

  • What should be a data-driven, quality-based, and contract-guaranteed process is anything but that despite the industry being heavily regulated

  • The only consistency is that the business of healthcare has been a game for a long time and many of the stakeholders know it

A network-based technology could be properly set up to link an almost limitless number of stakeholders in a business relationship. The transactions that occur between these stakeholders would be logged securely, sequentially, and rapidly in a way that could not be altered. In fact, all the stakeholders would have the same information and when a new transaction occurs everyone's database would be updated promptly. With this level of speed and transparency trust could be rebuilt in time. Additionally, contracts could be programmed across the network so that if performance expectations are met then payments would be authorized systematically. The expectations in the form of a smart contract, the transaction "blocks" registered in a sequential and immutable manner, and the distribution of identical ledgers securely for all participating stakeholders is what blockchain technology offers.

The blockchain technology just described is currently being explored by a variety of industries, the potential for new solutions to our industry's old problems seems within reach:

  • Why aren't rosters for clinicians electronically maintained in a simultaneous fashion by both providers AND payors?

  • If we had these rosters more efficiently maintained by both providers and payors, couldn't claims be submitted from the provider to the payor more effectively than we do today?

  • With the communication of provider rosters and the submission of claims now more efficient, what would hold back payments from being sped along faster than we see today?

  • If roster, claim, and payment data could be shared digitally, securely, and rapidly across all involved parties' "distributed ledgers" while being registered in a way that the data couldn't be altered this would make a compelling case for a new way of doing business

  • Not only would the experience of the patient who receives the contractually acceptable, clinically appropriate, and informationally correct care improve, but this new approach could change accounts receivable from being measured in minutes rather than months

Blockchain doesn't need to be sold it needs to be explored

Unless we work with our business partners to acknowledge mutually beneficial information, share it in efficient ways simultaneously, protect it through encryption where necessary we will never move past these fundamental workflows to get to the point where we are solving the real problems that need our attention and that patients demand. Improving health for each individual and entire "populations", using data to shift care to where it will have the most medical benefit and financial "value", while balancing "accountability" once and for all across patients, providers, and payors is what distributed ledger technology (Blockchain) offers.

The point of introducing Blockchain technology is not to sell it as the silver bullet to end all problems, but rather open the eyes of those entrenched in longstanding business processes and broken relationships and come to the realization that the current way of doing business is simply broken.

Blockchain technology may not be the solution. But it is hard to imagine skipping out on testing compelling elements of a new technology to solve old problems. And it is better for a business to be aware of a new technology ahead of time than to be caught off guard by it. And if a blockchain-based innovation is dismissed I would ask what alternative solution has been attempted to bring lasting and permanent improvement?

Now it's your turn, how would you explain blockchain?

How would you explain blockchain to someone else? Perhaps your own boss?

How would you explain it in one sentence?

How would you explain it in one page?

The scenario of having to explain this technology to your boss, your peers, or your staff will increase in likelihood, perhaps rapidly, as time and the Blockchain movement marches forward. Even if you dismiss this technology, keep in mind blockchain technology is more than just the trendy cryptocurrency you may be hearing about. Furthermore, there are a growing number of people and organizations who do believe this technology will be implemented and that it is just a matter of time and a matter of how.

When this technology has reached your organization's front door will you be one to step up and explain it or will you be one that will wait for someone else to do the explaining? If you consider yourself to be a thought leader or at a minimum an innovator in your company you might want think hard about simply dismissing blockchain and not even getting acquainted with it to