At a marketing event organised recently by Pro Carton and Propak Austria in Vienna, geneticist and bestselling author Markus Hengstschläger demanded the renouncing of mediocrity. Following the example of the “most successful experiment in the world” – evolution – the industry should demonstrate greater courage, support individuality and creativity. The Packaging Supply Chain can also learn from this principle – right down to the Point of Sale.
The future has never been less predictable than today. “A hundred years ago, a young person knew that whatever skills he had acquired for his job would last him until retirement. In the millennium year 2000 it was ascertained that mankind doubles its knowledge every ten years. That was still manageable, “lifelong learning” allowed you to compete. But today this is no longer possible. Everything you could learn or teach doubles every 24 hours.”
Basis for the future
“Never before has a generation endured so many changes. Today, nobody knows how we will communicate in 20 years. Is it even possible to be equipped for the future?” This is not a necessity for the Gulf States, they have oil. Nor is it necessary for countries with cheap labour, they simply manufacture what others invent. “Most countries in Europe have no oil and labour is expensive. Therefore we need to think on how to prepare ourselves for the future.”
“Let us think back to a group of pupils in the school gym: now and again a ball came along which had to be caught. Not really a problem. But today balls are flying from all directions.” Statistical analyses do not really help here. “If, for example, 10 balls are coming from the top left and 10 from the right bottom, what is the average? The centre. So the gym teacher tells his pupils to stand in the middle, although in reality not a single ball came from there. The result is negligible.”
For the same reason young people are often advised to stand in the middle, where everyone stands. Because, if everyone is doing that it cannot be totally wrong. “But the results remain poor. If you do not know what tomorrow brings, you need to be flexible.”
The most successful experiment in the world
Geneticists know this. An example: “Cnidarians live in a puddle, extremely small creatures that cannot be seen with naked eye. They reproduce asexually, through division. This is a very rapid process and the offspring are identical. Under good conditions the puddle will be inhabited by billions of cnidarians. But if the temperature increases by a few degrees, none of them will survive.”
If a company launches a successful product, then it will reproduce this as quickly as possible until the market is saturated and the company dominates the market. “This no doubt assures short-term success, but is highly dangerous for the long term. If an X-event occurs, an “extraordinary event‘, then the company is unprepared. And in future we will experience more X-events than ever before.”
If an X-event occurs and all are different, there will always be someone who survives. “The more different talents we have, the more likely it will be that someone has the answer to a question we are not even aware of today. Evolution is the most successful experiment in the world because we are all different. We have enough answers for future questions! However, the problem is that we throw most of them overboard because we do not know the questions yet.”
Managing the future
Industry needs to rethink. “It does nor demand Peaks & Freaks, it demands young, inexpensive graduates who do as they are told. Someone willing to treat new paths must leave the old ones. That needs to be supported in companies. True, this costs money, but this is recovered quickly. We need to create structures which allow utmost individuality and creativity!”
How to manage this? With the right balance between safe and risky projects. Management of the future demands two things: “One needs to readjust the ratio “risky : safe” new every day. One needs to support so many safe projects to be able to afford the risk ones. And secondly: what is lacking in talent should not be done by oneself, one needs to replace lacking individual intelligence by interpersonal intelligence. Social competence needs to compensate what one cannot do.”
A new approach for the Supply Chain
With all these examples, Markus Hengstschläger, demonstrates how important it is not to fall into the mediocrity trap. This applies to all areas of industry: whether personnel management, product development, marketing or packaging – only maximum creative freedom and individuality will secure the answers we need for the future
And the Packaging Supply Chain should learn from this principle. Previously it was quite sufficient to find an improved solution for the same problem, today we need to examine entirely new avenues – and this applies to all companies involved in the value creation chain. Nobody knows exactly where development will take us, but those who wait until it happens, will have missed the boat.
The Packaging Supply Chain should apply itself to packaging solutions which make the unthinkable thinkable, with features that embrace possible future requirements which may be completely different from what we know now, and this also applies to the Point of Sale – which is everywhere today.