The Hidden Influences of Blockchain Governance: A Study of Organizational Imprinting

Curtis Goldsby, Marvin Hanisch, Helge Klapper

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articleAcademicpeer-review


Blockchain technologies are increasingly being used as algorithmic governance mechanisms for interorganizational transactions. Despite blockchains’ promise of decentralized governance and full automation, the underlying algorithmic protocols are often insufficient to align incentives, regulate behavior, and ensure trust. As a result, organizations typically introduce additional centralized governance structures to fill the gaps in the algorithmic governance layer, but this can lead to serious governance conflicts in complex network constellations with many stakeholders and divergent interests. Using an imprinting lens, we examine such complex governance issues in three interorganizational blockchain networks that differed dramatically in terms of success despite similar goals and founding conditions, with one network shutting down, one stagnating, and another continuing to operate. Drawing on extensive qualitative evidence from 56 interviews and comprehensive internal and external records, we found that the initial imprints from the shared technology provider played a significant role in the initial governance choices, maladaptation problems, and ultimately the success of these blockchain networks. By introducing imprinting theory into governance research, we can explain subconscious, latent, and persistent mechanisms that influence governance decisions at a profound level, often without the actors involved being aware of it.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAcademy of Management Proceedings
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 24 Jul 2023

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