Learning about Blockchain Technology and its impact on innovation, management and policy at Birkbeck

This post has been contributed by Saverio Romeo, Lecturer on the Blockchain module

Reasons for introducing the module

Public and private organisations are under the pressure of a continous flow of emerging technologies that are driving organisational and innovation changes. However, those organisations are not always prepared to absorb those influences in their current operational modes and strategies. The pace of technological change is too rapid in comparison to the pace of change of organisations. That difference exacerbates in the context of technology policy making. There are several reasons – all equally important – for that phenomenon. One of those is the need for a digital organisational culture able to quickly engage with the impact of emerging technologies in organisations and society at large. Building that culture means educating employees to the implications of emerging technologies. That education does not necessarily include a deep view on the technology itself, but it should strongly include the management and organisational tools for dealing with emerging technology. This is the reason for suggesting a module on blockchain technology. Blockchain technology is just one of the emerging technologies, but certainly the most known and discussed in the last years, therefore, the most appealing to the students.

The structure of the module

The core idea of the module was not to explore the blockchain technology in detail, but to explore its impact on public and private organisations, market dynamics, and governance and decision- making processes at public and private level. The module was composed of 9 lectures, structured in three main parts.

The first part provided the students with an enough understanding of the blockchain technology. How does it work? Which are the key features of the technology that make it so appealing and interesting? Which are the most important definitions and classifications used by the blockchain community? Why is blockchain technology relevant, so relevant to have a module about it? The lectures were designed in a way that concepts were repeated more times. The main reason of that was that the concepts behind blockchain technology are not immediate to absorb.

The second part of the module explored the applications of blockchain technology in several sectors and environments from supply chain to the music industry passing by governments and charity organisations. The key feature of this part was the extensive use of case studies and discussion on companies working with blockchain technology. In this part, students were also invited to run a group exercise. Each group run research on the application of blockchain technology in an area of their choice. They developed a PPT presentation and discussed it with the class.

The third part of the module looked at the implications blockchain technology can have on organisations. This part explored the management and organisational implications, the innovation and entrepreneurship implications, and the governance and technology policy implications. In this part the students were invited to run a group activity describing the features and the structure of selected blockchain companies.

The key role of external speakers

During all parts the students showed a strong interest on the various topics. Probably, the first part was the most challenging one, but they kept their motivation high from lecture 1 until the end. One key tool for keeping the students’ momentum high was the presence of external speakers. 8 external speakers were invited to give a talk on what they do around blockchain technology. They gave students the sense that the concept is not theoretical, but real and it is happening. The engagement between students and external speakers was phenomenal and continued via e-mail exchanges. I am also aware of business networking happening between external speakers and some students.

Future Evolutions

The module was an experimentation on how to engage students with management and innovation topics raised by emerging technologies. We used blockchain technology to test the idea. That idea must evolve towards a module that look at a set of emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, Internet of Things and so on. The reason for that is that the power of those technologies comes when they converge. The other need is to introduce strongly management and innovation analysis tool such as business canvass techniques and emerging technology analysis frameworks. The next module should be called “Emerging Technologies and their Impact on Organisations and Society”. In addition to that, we should create a small research group, “Emerging Technologies Research Group”, which could run teaching activities in various contexts – also to externals – but also research.

How to enroll

The new Blockchain module is offered to MSc Business Innovation students at Birkbeck. For more information about studying Business Innovation at Birkbeck please see:

The links to enrolling in the relevant postgraduate degree programmes are: