Digitization is hundred-year opportunity
Top-notch experts met on November 25, 2015, in Berlin for the 10th Delphi Dialog of Deutsche Post DHL Group. Moderated by Stefan Aust, publisher of the WeltN24 group, the panel addressed the issue of "Happ-e-Ness – How digitization influences our satisfaction with life". A second topic treated during the event was the "Deutsche Post Atlas of Happiness 2015", published that same day. The current study has a special section dedicated to shedding light on the digitization of the world of work and its impact on job satisfaction. The study and the event thus combine two major questions that currently concern society, business and politics: 1) what constitutes satisfaction with life and 2) how will digitization influence people's lives in the future.
Christof Ehrhart, EVP Corporate Communications and Corporate Responsibility, introducing into the event.
A new species has arisen of late: the Smombies. The portmanteau word, constructed from smartphone and zombie, is the young people's word of the year for 2015. It describes people who practically merge with their smartphones so that they can be in contact with everyone. "Just not with the people standing right next to them," said WeltN24 group publisher, Stefan Aust, as he opened this year's Delphi Dialog as host. With this brief account, Aust introduced the guests – 130 representatives from the business world, media, politics and logistics – to the topic of the evening with a wink.
The discussion at the podium and in the panel focused not only on the question of how messaging services are changing communication in families and groups of friends or how social social networks really are. Participants also pursued other key issues: How do people behave when caught in the tension between enthusiasm for technology and the overwhelming demands of technology – and what does digitization mean for democracy, gainful employment and social evolution?
Digital communication creates a new form of empathy
Dr. Peter Tauber, deputy member of the Bundestag committee "Digital Agenda", and Stefan Aust, publisher of the WeltN24 group and chair of the panel discussion.
In light of the overarching topic of "Happ-e-Ness", Dr. Peter Tauber expressed pleasure in the opportunity to talk about happiness and satisfaction during his speech – especially since the source of discussions in Germany is usually dissatisfaction. Tauber is General Secretary of the German Christian Democratic Union and deputy member of the Bundestag committee "Digital Agenda". An enthusiastic Tauber shared his view that digitization has created many private moments of happiness and given us enormous opportunities for social evolution. "Digitization is drawing the world closer together," said Tauber. "We are discovering a new form of empathy, because the power of images affects us directly."
The dark side of the digitization of information, according to Tauber, is that it can lead to conspiracy theories; even people with advanced formal educations are not immune to building crude world pictures. "Right-wing extremism in its current form would not have been possible twenty years ago," he said, "because people couldn't connect with each other the way they do now." In Tauber's view, social networks can also sometimes quickly become "asocial" – even if the platforms only provided the space for it.
The way social networks are handled is ultimately a question of education. With this remark, he transitioned to the next part of his speech, which addressed the radical change connected with the digitization of the economy. Tauber emphasized that he can well understand people's anxiety as to whether the knowledge and skills they have acquired will still have any value in just a few years. Furthermore he pointed out that digitization also brings new opportunities for professional life.
Sound bites from the event in Berlin (in German)
Panel of experts on the stage
"Companies that provide their employees with digital tools increase both – productivity and job satisfaction", Professor Wilhelm Bauer stated.
With his comments on the digitization of professional life, Tauber provided an important cue for the subsequent panel discussion. Hosted by Stefan Aust, it included the aforementioned Dr. Tauber, Jürgen Gerdes, Steffi Czerny and Professor Wilhelm Bauer as discussants. Bauer, Director of Fraunhofer IAO, argued that those companies today that increasingly provide their employees with digital tools increase both productivity and job satisfaction. This opinion is also congruent with the insights of the "Deutsche Post Atlas of Happiness 2015".
According to the study, three-quarters of all those gainfully employed indicated that digitization plays either a major role (35 percent) or a respectively large role (37 percent) in their professional lives. Overall, workers viewed the impact of digitization on their daily working lives as predominantly positive. More than fifty percent said that digitization has made every-day working life easier and only 10 percent complained that digital tools were a burden.
The panel of experts also suggested that digitization was still in its infancy. Steffi Czerny, Managing Director of DLD Media, reported on her trip to Silicon Valley, where the question of "when" has become a kind of parlor game. Steffi Czerny: "When – that is the question, when will machines be smarter than human beings?"
What impact does digitization have on the professional world and job satisfaction? The Deutsche Post "Atlas of Happiness 2015", published on November 25 and celebrating its fifth anniversary this year, has some answers. The publication conducts annual surveys to measure the satisfaction of the German people in 19 regions and its connection with various factors. The current edition of the “Deutsche Post Atlas of Happiness” examines people’s satisfaction with their work, work/life balance and the impact of digitization on professional life and job satisfaction.
Wilhelm Bauer too views the evolution of digitization to date as only a preliminary to future developments. Industry 4.0 – the Smart Factory – signifies for him a Second Machine Age: "We are developing machines that can communicate with each other, are starting to think and make decisions." That will have a dramatic impact on work. Bauer quoted studies that show that 47 percent of today's jobs will disappear over the next 20 years. "But new ones will also emerge," said Bauer.
New services are already being invented today that were inconceivable years ago. Whether people can keep up with the changes – that, discussion participants agreed, is a question of education. "Germany is not doing so badly in a lot of areas," said Tauber. "We don't have to invent the next Facebook, but we should concentrate on those things we do well, like mechanical engineering and logistics."
Discussion participants on the stage (from the left)
- Engineering Professor Wilhelm Bauer, Head of the Fraunhofer IAO
- Dr. Peter Tauber, Member of the German Bundestag, General Secretary of the Christian Democratic Union Germany, and deputy member of the Bundestag committee "Digital Agenda"
- Stefan Aust, publisher of the WeltN24 group and chair of the panel discussion
- Jürgen Gerdes, Member of the Board of Management at Deutsche Post DHL Group
- Steffi Czerny, co-founder and Managing Director of DLD Media
A culture of innovation that tolerates mistakes
Jürgen Gerdes, Board member (PeP): "For our company, digitization is the key to improving our logistics services."
In any case, logistics is well prepared for tomorrow. Delivering parcels to a customer's car trunk regardless of where the automobile is parked is not just pure Willy Wonka anymore. That kind of service is not only customer friendly; it also saves on road time. Moreover, parcels could soon be able to help preserve the health of their deliverers, by doing such things as announcing their weight. Expanded use of data glasses in the hubs is even being discussed. "I think digitization is a hundred-year opportunity," said Jürgen Gerdes, Board of Management Member at Deutsche Post DHL Group. "Maybe even a thousand-year one, an opportunity to make life on earth easier and better."
Gerdes also made note of the culture of innovation that accompanies digitization: "For our company, digitization is the key to improving our logistics services. That is why we are testing everything possible at the most unlikely points along the entire value chain." But Gerdes admitted that there have also been setbacks. "Sometimes we have been completely wrong," he said. "We have to recognize our mistakes as soon as possible, make them as cheaply as possible, and not repeat them if possible – and then tackle the problem anew."
Digital politics, digital society
Digitization will not only revolutionize the working world. Social and political processes will also be changed. Peter Tauber reported on his experiences as the General Secretary of the CDU. The influence of digital media has changed party work and the whole business of politics: People interested in politics wanted to get involved and help determine things – and utilized every possible electronic channel of communications with great skill to do just that.
Delphi Dialog and the Atlas of Happiness
Delphi Dialogs have been held since 2010. The event series from Deutsche Post DHL Group uses podium discussions to examine trends and developments that shape our living world and the logistics industry. On the same day as this year's event, November 25, Deutsche Post published its "Atlas of Happiness 2015", an annually published study that has measured satisfaction with life in Germany for five years now.
When an audience member posed the question of digital voting machines, Tauber pointed out the strict requirements that the Federal Constitutional Court has placed on their use, requirements that cannot be met with today's technology. For Jürgen Gerdes, digitization is a way to advance democratization. "In the digital world everyone meets at the same level," he said.
At the end of the event, the panel of experts returned to the topic of robotics and intelligent computer systems. Stefan Aust wondered whether all of that wasn't maybe just a little uncanny. Wilhelm Bauer was able to reassure the journalist: The systems will always be constructed by people – and people will certainly not forget to include an "off" button.