Weekly Feature: "How Blockchain Can Simplify Partnerships"

April 21, 2021

Our current ~~ work from home era ~~ has emphasized the need for better forms of virtual communication and collaboration. A recently published piece in the Harvard Business Review argues that blockchain technology can offer exciting solutions.

Some terminology

Blockchain seems complicated, and it definitely can be, but its core concept is really quite simple. A blockchain is a type of database.

So, what's a database, really?

Answer: a collection of information that is stored electronically on a computer system.

Databases can be spreadsheets used by one person or a small group of people. But they can also be much larger — and housed on thousands of powerful computers.

Yet, blockchains differ from typical databases.

  • Blockchains collect information in groups, AKA: blocks.
  • Blocks have certain storage capacities. Once they're full, a new block is formed and they're linked together in a — wait for it — blockchain.
  • Significantly, this process creates an irreversible timeline of data; each block in the chain is given an exact timestamp.

And one more important thing to know:

Blockchains are considered decentralized databases.

A traditional database might be stored on a server across 10,000 computers all housed under one roof in a company warehouse.

However, blockchains can be implemented across thousands of different computers across varying geographic locations. The computers that make up a blockchain network are often called "nodes."

OK, so how can businesses use them?

The Harvard Business Review argues that blockchains can simplify partnerships by creating a reliable record of transactions, avoiding costly disputes, and changing how deals are made.

1). Blockchains are "digital ledgers" — meaning several people have joint control over the shared information. This makes them ideal for situations where trust and information sharing are important.

2). Blockchains can be paired with "smart contracts": programmed codes that are automatically executed once certain conditions are met.

For instance, companies like Maersk, the world’s leading logistic company, have already begun using smart contracts to automate a variety of tasks in the shipping process. Their program increases efficiency because execution is automated, and the enforcement of the shipping agreement relies on neither the court nor social sanctions, but rather on a set of protocols representing a self-contained and autonomous system of rules.

Moreover, with blockchain, "Information becomes secure, immutable, transparent, and traceable when stored and processed on the blockchain. With a much higher level of accuracy and authentication, the parties have less concern about possible collaboration failures."

Read the full Harvard Business Review piece here, and for a more technical description of blockchains, read this article.