Regularity, rhythm, reliability
Entrepreneur, keynote speaker and author
It has to be one of my earliest memories: every day during the holidays, as a little boy, together with my grandmother I was on the lookout for the postman. Footsteps, the rattling of the letterbox, letters that fell into the box. Regularity. Rhythm. Reliability. And once a month the postman also came in to deliver my grandmother’s pension. Then she had a little chat with him, and she was glad that her money had arrived safely. Trust. Safety. Certainty.
That was half a century ago, and a lot of things have changed since. I was lucky to fully enjoy one of the most exciting periods in human history, the rise of the digital age, and the technological revolution through the introduction of the internet. It has totally changed our lives. When I graduated, there was hardly any mention of the World Wide Web. And now, we can no longer live without our online or mobile connectivity. My children grew up in a world where digital is normal, where everything is always accessible everywhere and where you can look everything up. They are the generation that can be very annoyed when there is a glitch on the Wi-Fi and their Netflix or Spotify falters for a millisecond.
We are now in the phase where the rise of online and digital is also shaking up different business aspects. Look at the financial sector, where banks are closing more and more branches, because we can do everything on our smartphone, wherever and whenever we want. Or at the media, where newspaper groups have to reinvent themselves for a younger audience that grew up with Instagram, YouTube and Netflix and no longer has an affinity with a paper newspaper. But especially look at the retail sector, where we read reports every week about the increasing vacancy in shopping streets. And where the first wave of online players like bol.com and Coolblue anxiously await what is about to happen now that Amazon has set its sights on Belgium.
Almost everything has changed. And yet the postman still delivers our post. We all know it contains fewer and fewer letters, because they are sent more and more often digitally. And, for the same reason, the amount of newspapers and leaflets will also decrease systematically. The postman delivers more and more parcels, but is that the only silver lining for the future of a player like bpost?
In my opinion, there is a “Phoenix” in bpost: the opportunity to reinvent itself for the digital future.
For ten years we have paid a lot of attention to the famous “Unicorns”, the new online players who have grown so very fast and became so very dominant. Just think of Google, Facebook or Amazon. I am convinced that the next ten years we will mainly have to deal with a “Phoenix” phenomenon. Traditional players who embrace technology and emerge stronger. In the US, we see traditional retailers such as Walmart reinventing itself against Amazon. Or we see Disney rise like a phoenix in its fight against Netflix.
In my opinion, there is a “Phoenix” in bpost: the opportunity to reinvent itself for the digital future. And then it’s not just about more parcels, but perhaps also about the ancient values that are embedded in the company. Regularity, rhythm, reliability: in a rapidly changing volatile society, we need it more than ever. Trust, safety, security: more than ever in a world of uncertainty, we need a safe beacon. Reinventing bpost is going to be a tough job, but the ingredients to make it shine like a beautiful phoenix are definitely there.
Peter Hinssen gives lectures at the London Business School and MIT and is an opinion maker about radical innovation and the impact of all digital things on society and business.