Innovation

The Future of Blockchain: Empowerment Through Personal Data

18 April, 2019
  • Vineet Malhotra

    Partner, Digital Ventures and Capabilities Leader, Mercer

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"Growth economies must find ways to integrate intermediaries who will fight the prospect of obsolescence as blockchain technologies become more popular."

Musicians, poets and philosophers have spent entire lifetimes asking the question, "Who am I?" In the not-so-distant future, the answer to that question may be stored in our personal blockchain profiles — digital "arks" that contain the details of every decision, action and purchase we've made since the day we were born. Say goodbye to your birth certificate, credit score, passport, professional resume and medical history, and say hello to the future of blockchain: your blockchain profile. Your unique answer to the question "Who are you?" will be a chronological, hyper-detailed, immutable record that says with unprecedented certainty, "This is who I am."

Blockchain will not live inside our thoughts, emotions, dreams or nightmares. It will not capture the inner dialogues people reveal in personal diaries or while talking to the bathroom mirror in the morning. Blockchain will, however, never forget when you broke your arm at the age of five (climbing a bannister), how your heart rate spiked when you first met your spouse (you dropped your drink) or that you paid extra for rush delivery of a new pair of black shoes (your cousin's wedding).

Blockchain may not be the "you" robed Greek philosophers had in mind, but it will be the "you" the rest of the world sees — ideally, with your permission.

Know Your Rights in a Digital World
 

Businesses want access to your decisions. Information detailing why you choose to vacation in Vietnam, eat mussels at your favorite Italian spot every Tuesday night or only use a medium-bristle toothbrush is valuable to companies that want to sell you — and people like you — airline tickets, fresh seafood and toothpaste. Every online decision you make and action you take is data that reveals part of your personality and thought processes.

In recent years, businesses and policymakers have debated how much access companies should have to an individual's personal decisions — especially what they read, click on and buy online. While there are powerful forces seeking to retain control over the data individuals create when using online services, the winds are shifting, and regulatory momentum is beginning to favor the individual.

In May 2018, the E.U. set forth the landmark General Data Privacy Regulation (GDPR) that firmly establishes basic legal rights regarding data privacy, ownership, control, consent and portability for all of its citizens, regardless of where they live.1 In the U.S., the HIPPA Privacy Rule establishes national standards to protect individuals' medical records and other personal health information.2

These regulations are in place to protect citizens from organizations who may seek to use personal data for purposes other than what it was collected for, or for which consent has been explicitly given — and provide instruments to exact considerable penalties on entities that violate those laws. In an era of digital transformation, it is critical that people appreciate the value of their personal data and the extent of their rights to privacy.

For Sale: Sleeping Habits and Exercise Routines
 

Personal data is now part of the supply-and-demand dynamics driving capitalistic enterprises. Consumers not only possess purchasing power but also access to the thoughts and activities that precede particular purchases. This information is invaluable to companies that use data-driven strategies to sell their products and services to targeted consumers.

Before blockchain technology, it wasn't possible to have a comprehensive record that kept track of an individual's purchases and behaviors within the context of everything else happening in their lives. But now, it is possible. Today, blockchain makes it possible for people to have an immutable profile of unimaginable detail, one that begins on the day they're born and develops throughout their entire lives — recording everything from when they lost their first tooth to the names of their grandchildren. Every doctor visit, every homework question, every mouse click, every page view.

Businesses, naturally, will develop innumerable ways to incentivize people to allow access to their data. With individual rights established as the legal default, consumers will hold the power in this relationship and can monetize their data by renting access to various aspects of their blockchain profiles — from their sleeping habits to exercise routines. As deeper access is granted and more data sources are connected, behaviors can be predicted with greater accuracy, increasing the value of an individual's profile.

In effect, individuals will be able to self-identify as willing marketing targets who offer their comprehensive descriptive profiles for sale in an emerging digital marketplace for personal data — a development that will radically alter the business of advertising, data research and analytics.

A World of 8.5 Billion "Personhoods"
 

In 2030, the global population is expected to reach 8.5 billion. By that time, blockchains could consistently, reliably and securely organize data around the individuals who comprise the world's communities and nations. This makes person-centric societies technically possible, where citizens' actions and behaviors are digitally recorded in their "personhood" — an immutable record that serves as a single source of truth to their experiences and sensibilities.

People, in essence, will regularly create real-time data that is chronologically added to their collective profile — which includes health records, educational backgrounds, professional credentials, voter registrations, driver's licenses, criminal histories, financial status and any other notable aspect of being a person. "Personhood" could become the universally accepted record to which all identity-related information can be tied. All the processes once needed to validate identity will be replaced by an individual's comprehensive blockchain profile. The commoditization of personal data will profoundly impact how people relate to businesses and each other.

Will being held accountable to one's own "personhood" — and knowing that the details of our lives will forever be recorded in our blockchain profile — change how we behave? Will attempting to increase the value of one's "personhood" become an extension of trying to improve their own lives? Or vice versa? The rise of "personhood" could change our collective understanding of ownership in ways the human race hasn't witnessed since the concept of personal property rights first emerged.

The Future Challenges to a Blockchain World
 

There are always casualties to sweeping technological advancements. With the proliferation of blockchain technology and the rising value of individuals' data, societies risk becoming even more polarized along financial and class lines. Individuals with more purchasing power inherently possess data that is more valuable to businesses that sell products and services or governmental institutions that could benefit from their financial support or influence. Those without money or access to modern technologies will face profound disadvantages unless governments — especially those in growth economies — implement regulations that protect vulnerable citizens from being left behind. Growth economies must also find ways to integrate intermediaries who will fight the prospect of obsolescence as blockchain technologies become more popular.

Though the future is difficult to predict, and change always creates challenges, history teaches us that where value is created, technology eventually wins. The future of blockchain presents the human race with the opportunity to understand each other, and ourselves, in unprecedented ways. By providing new insights into human behaviors, relationships and business interactions, we can learn from each other and improve conditions for everyone.

Perhaps blockchain data will even convincingly demonstrate to humanity how similar we all are. In the future, the most important questions people can ask themselves is not, "Who am I as a person?" but, "Who are we as a society?" The answer to that question may create the type of civilization only dreamed of by musicians, poets and philosophers.

Interested in learning more about blockchain? Check out: Mercer Digital's Blockchain 101 Overview.

1Palmer, Danny. "What Is GDPR? Everything You Need to Know About the New General Data Protection Regulations." ZDNet, https://www.zdnet.com/article/gdpr-an-executive-guide-to-what-you-need-to-know/.
2
"The HIPAA Privacy Rule." Office for Civil Rights, https://www.hhs.gov/hipaa/for-professionals/privacy/index.html.

 

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Vineet Malhotra | 11 Apr 2019

Vincenzo Peruggia was born on 8 October, 1881.  Some thirty years later on a Monday morning in 1911, the diminutive 160-cm Italian man strapped on a white smock—to blend in with the other employees at the Louvre in Paris—and walked out carrying the Mona Lisa.  He simply lifted it off the wall.  For the next two years Leonardo Da Vinci’s iconic masterpiece lay stuffed in a trunk in the thief’s Paris apartment.  Vincenzo eventually grew anxious and returned to Florence in his beloved homeland where he contacted an art dealer and attempted to peddle the famous painting.  The police arrested him in his hotel room.  What makes this story fascinating is not that it was so shockingly easy to walk away with a world renowned Renaissance-era treasure, but that Vincenzo’s crime was doomed from the very beginning.  Everyone in the art world knew the origins of the Mona Lisa, the value of the Mona Lisa and the journey of the Mona Lisa to her home in the Louvre.  The painting’s entire provenance was well documented and agreed upon.  Introducing the stolen masterpiece back into the art world without setting off alarms everywhere was impossible.  Blockchain technology offers that same level of transparency and authenticity for everything from a Persian tapestry and a toro sushi roll to a refinanced mortgage loan, or even a single lemon.  Here’s how: Mutually Agreed Upon Single Source of Truth   The first step to documenting data on a blockchain requires operational processes that focus on first-time accuracy.  From the initial step, all parties involved in a transaction must confirm the identity, value and controlling stipulations that regulate the blockchain asset.  In our story featuring Vincenzo Peruggia, for instance: This is Da Vinci’s painting, the Mona Lisa.  She hangs on this particular wall in the Louvre.  She is worth $800 million.  No, she is not for sale.  The value and circumstances have been established.  If anyone attempts to steal or tamper with the Mona Lisa, the involved parties—the world, in this case—will notice.  With blockchain, once the mutually agreed upon initial information is captured accurately, it becomes the single source of truth.  It never needs to be verified.  Once the integrity of the data related to the information asset has been established, blockchain technology prevents any nefarious actors from being able to manipulate it because everyone in the blockchain is looking at the same information, at the same time, from their respective computers, distributed throughout the world.  Everyone is privy to the original confirmed and verified asset and what happens to that data moving forward.  Attempting to exploit or plunder that digital asset would be like trying to steal the Mona Lisa from countless, well-protected Louvres all over the world. 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Vineet Malhotra | 27 Dec 2018

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Nicol Mullins | 13 Dec 2018

Businesses around the world are entering an age of disruption. Starbucks, for example, is changing its business model to accommodate payments made via mobile devices, which now account for 30% of transactions in U.S. stores. Disruptions driven by digital transformation are re-shaping business models and human resource structures in just about every industry. Mercer’s 2018 Global Talent Trends Study – Unlocking Growth in the Human Age revealed that businesses that self-identify as a digital organisation are twice as likely to report high scores on change agility as a differentiating organisational competency.1 A continent of different nations   While the world embraces a shared and on-demand economy, many countries in Africa continue to grapple with an old and entrenched world order. In fact, many African countries prefer familiarity over change. 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Siddhartha Gupta | 13 Jun 2019

Talent acquisition is one of the biggest challenges organizations face, according to Mercer–Mettl's State of Talent Acquisition 2019 annual report. With technological innovations sweeping the market and more emphasis being placed on skill evaluation, talent assessment is no less than a marathon to grab high potential talent before competitors. Also, as the hiring process continues to evolve from newspaper ads to social recruiting, the next industry wave is automated recruitment. Organizations have started drifting away from manual hiring to technology driven processes. Here are three ways technology is changing the talent landscape for the better. 1. Technology Can Boost Employer Brand Values   To attract and retain top-quality talent in 2019 and beyond, building a strong employer brand should be a priority of every employer. With more organizations striving to create better workplaces and spend more to drive employee engagement, your brand must create a positive buzz in the market. A leading LinkedIn Report also suggests that 75% of candidates factor employee branding before joining an organization.1 A positive employee brand can help you attract quality talent, retain them and close multiple requisitions on autopilot through referrals. Such is the power of employee branding. How can technology make a difference here? State-of-the-art tools, applications and solutions can make a huge difference. Be it a smart career site, robust social media presence or a Candidate Relationship Management (CRM) system, technology can assist organizations in achieving a more refined branding strategy — and bringing in all the benefits that come with it. 2. Technology Can Improve the Candidate Experience   When candidates have multiple jobs to choose from, you have to give them a pretty good reason to join your organization, which should be different than a fat paycheck. Providing a gratifying candidate experience can do the job. The recruitment process is broadly classified into three stages: Sourcing, Screening & Selection, and Onboarding. Your job is to provide a seamless and hassle-free experience in each of these stages, so that the candidate thinks, "This organization has a nicely structured recruitment process. It must be a good place to work." And, you're all set! On the other hand, if there are roadblocks in any of these stages or if candidates get the impression that your recruitment process is haywire, they might look for a better fit elsewhere. Thanks to recruitment technology, there are plenty of options you can exercise to provide a great candidate experience. 3. Technology Can Enhance Talent Pool Quality   Previously, organizations did not have any standard procedures for evaluation and recruitment. They largely resorted to newspaper ads, walk-ins, unstructured face-to-face interviews or even pen-and-paper tests to fill vacancies. However, with time, they realized that these methods came with drawbacks. Traditional methods of recruitment were long, complex and biased. They failed in assessing candidates' soft skills or in understanding their weaknesses, since HR did not have any concrete data or framework to base their screening questions on. This ultimately increased candidate back-out and early attrition rates, leaving employers in a dilemma.      Such an unstructured process has given rise to online assessments that now help in shortlisting candidates ideal for a job role, based on the skills they possess. Additionally, these pre-screening tests also predict a new hire's on-the-job performance and retainability. With top talent typically available in the market for 10 days, on average, companies are increasingly making their talent acquisition process more practical, time-saving and interesting to attract talented candidates. According to the Mercer-Mettl report, 53% of organizations use competency-based interviews and 40% of organizations use video interviews for hiring top talent. New-age recruitment methods not only increase candidate engagement but also improve quality of hires. In 2017, the use of assessments in the IT/ES industry shot up by 132%, while the Banking Finance Services and Insurance (BFSI) industry experienced an increased assessment usage of 217%. The adoption of technology for hiring indicates the effectiveness of new-age methods. The tools collect inputs from candidates and compile responses to provide a final report which highlights the positives, negatives and areas in need of improvement. The data-backed results ultimately provide a boost to the employer brand value, improve candidate experience, enhance talent pool quality and help to carry out bulk, as well as niche, hiring in a seamless manner. 1"The Ultimate List of Employer Brand Statistics," LinkedIn Talent Solutions,https://business.linkedin.com/content/dam/business/talent-solutions/global/en_us/c/pdfs/ultimate-list-of-employer-brand-stats.pdf.

Mustafa Faizani | 30 May 2019

There is no doubt that family businesses are prominent across the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) in various industries. From small to renowned multinational corporations, family owned and managed companies are the foundation of the modern country. Many of these businesses have been in existence for five decades and still exist today. As the first-generation of individuals begin to step down, we're seeing a shift to second and third generation ownership. It is estimated that, in the Middle East, approximately $1 trillion in assets will be transferred to the next generation of family owned companies over the next decade.1 The transition from the first to the second generation, and increasingly, the second to third generation, will have tremendous implications on the sustainability and growth of these companies. As a result, legacy and succession planning are becoming an increasing concern for the region, as many businesses stand in a position to pass the baton over to the next generation. While existing leaders prefer to keep the business within the family, there are many challenges that can arise if there is no preparation done well in advance of the transition. This lack of preparation is common, as it's easy for leaders to be so involved in the day-to-day running of the business that they lose sight of longer-term, more strategic priorities. The penalty for failing to tackle leadership or ownership changes can be significant. Lack of a clear, strategic succession plan can cause disruption, conflict and uncertainty within the business, making it vulnerable to an acquisition or takeover. The long-term survival of a business and the preservation of the wealth that has been built, will likely depend on getting ahead of those changes through legacy and succession planning. Have a Strong Internal Talent Strategy   Planning can have many benefits. The priority is to ensure leadership continuity, which is an important factor in keeping employees engaged and ensuring retention. It also allows time to hire internal candidates for key positions, therefore avoiding the cost of external searches. Internal candidates know the organization better and tend to have a better chance of success than external hires. Additionally, promoting internally helps retain good people, because they see opportunities for growth and will stay on to pursue them. A strong talent strategy can also fill leadership positions quickly, not only avoiding the potential cost of unfilled positions and errors from a lack of leadership, but helping to circumvent legal consequences from potential missteps. Evaluate Your Operating Structure and Execute in Phases   Leaders often first look at the current reporting structure and organizational chart to evaluate who the next leader(s) may be. However, it is also important to think of an organization's operating structure and how it may change over time. Leaders must consider how functional activities will evolve as the business grows, while also looking at the experience of the shareholders during this significant change. These factors need to be reviewed before selecting the people who will take over the function. As part of this process, it's critical that succession planning is done in phases. Firstly, it is important to identify the roles critical to the business and the pool of successors that best fit the organization's requirements. Ensuring the right assessments to determine readiness levels can solidify the next generation of company leadership. Multiple assessments methods are suitable, including looking at historical measures of performance, 360 leadership behaviors tests and predictive measures of potential. Involve Executive Leadership   Lastly, executive leadership involvement is essential in the succession planning process. The organization's top leaders should be fully on board with the plan to bring in the next generation and meet frequently to discuss strategic talent management issues. The ultimate results of a business succession plan depend on the adherence and commitment to it from the organization. It requires a high level of engagement and continuous efforts to keep the succession moving forward over time, despite inevitable interruptions of operational needs and unexpected changes. To learn more about succession planning for family businesses, visit us here. 1Augustine, Babu, "Middle East's Family Businesses Get Serious on Sustainability" Gulf News, November 7, 2015,https://gulfnews.com/how-to/your-money/middle-easts-family-businesses-get-serious-on-sustainability-1.1614502.

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