ChatGPT is taking our jobs sooner than we think, but it may also prove to carry many opportunities and welcome change. Why is everyone so bad at assessing trends and changes? You’ll hear it at the RetailDetail Congress from Daria Krivonos, CEO of the Copenhague Institute for Future Studies (CIFS).
Predicting the future certainly seems like an absurd notion today. Who could have seen the coronavirus and the inflation crisis coming? Looking ahead is more like coffee-gazing in these times of volatility and uncertainty. So does scenario planning still make sense?
More than ever, says Daria Krivonos, CEO of the Copenhagen Institute for Future Studies (CIFS) adamantly. “When you can’t forecast, you still have to plan. Scenario planning is a technique developed for the military, precisely to deal with the utmost uncertainty. It means you plan for multiple (that’s key already), logical and plausible futures.” On April 20, she will exclusively outline future scenarios for retail at the RetailDetail Congress.
What you prefer doesn’t count
As humans, we always attribute more probabilities to what is likeable and preferable. “Now, for example, people hope Putin would disappear. Because they wish for it so much, they unconsciously rate that probability higher, as good old wishful thinking,” Krivonos explains. It explains why we see so much speculation in the media about the Russian leader’s state of health, and very often by non-health professionals.
Equally, it explains why so many retailers remained rock-solidly convinced for so long that e-commerce would fail to become anything, or that their sector would not digitise. “As a human being, optimism is good as a survival instinct, but as a business it is dangerous. You have to consider all possible futures. Avoid legacy thinking and look at the outside world: what could happen?”
What Uber can do, so can a store
Even now, companies are too eagerly seizing on the slowdown in online growth, the economist believes. “A lot of retail is not returning to physical shops. The purpose of stepping into a shop has changed, as there is less need to go to a store.” At the shop, therefore, customers want to experience the brand, not the store itself. The shopping experience should be as frictionless as possible.
“If I order an Uber, I immediately know on my mobile who is coming to pick me up, when and where exactly. They know where I am going. Payment happens automatically, completely contactless. It’s a fully seamless experience. But then I get to a shop and there they don’t know who I am, even though I have a loyalty card. Then they don’t have my size in stock and I have to queue at the till. That disappoints and frustrates, because you know it can be done differently.” So, with the help of technology, there is still a lot of efficiency to be gained. “Retail still has a lot of catching up to do.”
Like mocking a newborn
CIFS scours the world in search of megatrends. “What you hear about most is not always what will have the biggest impact on your business. Take climate change: obviously very important, but will that really be the biggest game changer for your small business? Aren’t there bigger threats or opportunities to focus on specific to your business? Not everything is equally relevant, important and plausible, especially if you have limited resources to address it.”
What really matters is what is both important and uncertain. The things you know would change your business but where you don’t know how they will play out and when; that’s what every company needs to work on. “Every person too, for that matter. Now that ChatGPT is here, many fear for their jobs – and that change may come sooner than thought. Yet we don’t take it very seriously, we look for its flaws in stead: it’s like looking at a newborn and mocking it for not being able to run. But that’s missing the bigger picture: the profound impact AI will have on our society.”
Yet there is also good news. Companies are actually quite well-prepared: since Covid-19, taking uncertainty as a given is firmly embedded. You can see it in the re-shoring of production, supply chains being reshaped and in how cautious business leaders are in their forecasts and expectations this year. “They are creating a buffer, breathing space. And if you have room to breathe, you also have room to think and prepare.”
Give yourself space and food for thought at the RetailDetail Congress, with on stage, apart from Daria Krivonos (CIFS), Carla Velghe (Hema), Giane Van Landuyt (Casa), Mark MJ Vandevelde (Komrads) and many others.