“You can’t study something that doesn’t exist,” reasons Johan Peter Paludan. Yet that’s exactly what this prolific author and former Director of CIFS (Copenhagen Institute of Future Studies) has spent most of his career doing. Now a spritely 70 years old, Paludan’s specialty is looking into the future and advising companies on what might happen once they get there and the decisions they may have to make as a result. In the following interview Johan Peter Paludan talks about megatrends, advancing automation and his vision for “last-mile” delivery systems.
What megatrends are currently occupying your thoughts?
Paludan: Globalization is a big one, with emphasis on the scattering of each country’s workforce, leading to increasing wage inequality. Economic welfare is another megatrend and is a very volatile topic. There’s an old saying: “Capitalism without crisis is like religion without sin.” They always seem to be connected – excesses and sins are inevitable aspects of human nature. Demography is another big one, particularly the graying of the world’s population. Half of today’s babies can expect to live to 100!
What are the most important challenges facing companies in the future?
Paludan: Lack of skilled labour will be a big problem. I tell companies they should start recruiting more people now because they might not be able to do so in a few years’ time.
You’ve written a lot about e-commerce in the past. How do you see it developing?
Paludan: Yes, e-commerce is definitely here to stay and is set to grow as even more people become accustomed to buying online. High streets and smaller retailers are likely to disappear because e-commerce is just so much easier. 3D printing will also continue to develop and will allow you to produce anything you want from the comfort of your own home.
What about the advance of automation?
Paludan: Automation will take up all the simple tasks – but we will still need “the human factor” to focus on the difficult tasks. Driverless cars will come but I’m not sure when.
Driverless cars will come but I’m not sure when.
Automated robots in warehouses are already here, but there needs to be better automation of “last-mile” delivery services to make it sustainable. One vision would be to have a warehouse for each neighborhood with just one company delivering e-commerce orders to local residents. This would save lots of different companies in lots of different vans from delivering in the same area. Another idea is to have a delivery box – a bit like a one-way cat flap – with a special barcode reader for each house. People could then easily receive goods whether they are at home or not.
What qualities should a futurist possess?
Paludan: They need to have an open attitude to reality and an ability to listen to others. They need to embrace the cross-fertilization of ideas from a wide variety of people – and to see that 2 + 2 might equal 5 in some cases.
Read the full interview on delivered.dhl.com