Steffen Frankenberg is Vice President Solutions & Innovation at DHL. Deutsche Post DHL recently conducted a study into what our world could be like in 2050 and what the implications could be for the logistics business.
Five scenarios were developed, some more optimistic than others. For example, one scenario describes mega-efficient cities and a global super grid for facilitating trade connections.
Another emphasises the role of 3D printing technology in driving personalised consumption, in turn reducing the need for transporting finished and semi-finished products. More pessimistic scenarios describe a world battered by natural disasters and conflict over dwindling resources.
We asked Steffen Frankenberg, who was one of the speakers at the BT Business Day 2012, what he thought about the results of the study and how the innovation team at DHL is preparing for the future. Some takeaways.
First we asked Steffen why DHL commissioned this study.
Steffen Frankenberg: “We want to stimulate discussion on what the future could look like, and for our own planning purposes we needed a basis on which to begin preparing for the longer-term future. However, the idea that you can predict anything with certainty is obviously wrong.
Even short-term prediction is near impossible. For example, who can predict what the Euro zone will look like next year. What the world will look like in 40 years time is completely uncertain. Nevertheless, it is a useful exercise to develop a number of different scenarios of what the future could look like, based on a number of long-term drivers of change, such as climate change, urbanisation, demographic changes and so on”.
The most important thing is to be flexible
Personally I think it is absolutely fascinating to look so far in the future. Looking at our study I don’t think there is one scenario that is most probable–if anything they represent different elements of the future. For example, it is likely that most people will be living in very large cities. The question then is, what will happen to rural areas? A key question is how optimistic are you? Will the world economy and our cities become highly efficient or will we have to face dramatic climate change and conflict over depleting resources? Will our economies continue to integrate or will there be intense competition and protectionism between nations or even between megacities?
All this is very uncertain but if you have thought through these scenarios in a systematic way, then it is at least possible to take some options on the future to prepare for some of these scenarios and strive to become a part of the solution. You can´t be sure of outcomes, so the most important thing is to be flexible.