Chris Naprawa, President TAAL, a vertically integrated blockchain infrastructure & service provider for enterprise.

Many of us have been thinking about disruptive technologies for several years now. But how do we determine what is real, transformative change and what is hype and baseless buzz?

Blockchain has been among the most talked-about of disruptive technologies. Some are convinced this is due to the technology’s close connection with the cryptocurrency industry, which has a direct impact on the world’s most powerful financial trends; others focus on how the application of blockchain technology in various industrial sectors will enable significant value.

For blockchain advocates like me, comparisons are often made with the emergence of the internet in the 1990s and its impact on our daily lives. We use the internet all day every day, but many of us rarely think about the technology itself. In the emerging future, I believe we will probably think of blockchain the same way. If this is the case, how can businesses prepare for what is to come and position themselves to take advantage of the emerging technology?

For answers to this question, let’s look to the second half of the 18th century, a time when machines began to replace manual production and disrupted harsh, relatively inefficient manual processes. This was the first Industrial Revolution, and as business adapted, political, economic and social systems around the world were transformed.

At that time, the vast majority of humanity was not fully prepared for the disruptive impact of technology on existing social systems. The rapid application of steam engines in various manufacturing and transport sectors increased the need for additional energy production, and there was a transition from operating as a feudal society to a modern civil society as a direct consequence.

Today, at a time when the digital revolution is taking place on a massive and global scale, I can see blockchain as a similarly transformative technology; in this case, it’s an emerging form of decentralized business focused on transacting large amounts of data.

But with blockchain technology scaling, organizational preparation has become imperative. Blockchain can bring transparency, but with that, organizations must prepare for a model without a mandatory intermediatory, i.e., a central instance. Leaders, their teams and their customers will need to understand that blockchain does not need a centralized force to verify a process but that the technology itself manages the process in such a way that all actors have the same copies of transaction data.

Having data on transactions and timely insight into changes can allow participants to own their data and independently decide when and how to use it. Imagine owning your own medical records, for example, and then you decide which doctors and health professionals get access to it. The owner of the information, through the application of blockchain, gets the opportunity to make the content available on the market and, in some cases, monetize it. In this way, they manage the financial value of the data without the participation of intermediaries.

As the blockchain revolution moves us toward a decentralized society, the demand for professionals is widely evident. This shows me that it is also necessary to encourage education that prepares graduates and those already in the workplace for the rapid, unhindered demands and potential of this decentralized environment. To get started, you can consider participating in accredited learning programs offered by blockchain associations or educational institutions.

Companies interested in blockchain should also form valuable working groups from across leadership functions, such as finance, supply chain, product development and regulatory affairs, to explore how the technology could best be leveraged in the organization. Trade and business associations can play an important role in this, too, by providing resources to share use cases and support sector innovation.

Mass adoption of blockchain technologies will also require robust legal systems at the national level, as well as international regulation to advance the blockchain revolution. As applicable legal regulations and laws are being formulated, some countries are already well advanced in this process. I predict legal and technical experts will be the first-movers in the rapid deployment of global blockchain-related laws and regulations.

By preparing for the transformative changes that could emerge as a result of blockchain technologies, business leaders can better position their own organizations to benefit. According to the Deloitte 2020 Global Blockchain Survey, 55% of respondents consider the technology an organizational priority. Blockchain is clearly emerging as a major and democratizing force for business in the coming years.