The Electronic Retailing Association

MCMS 2017: Observations and Critical Comments by Christopher P. Peterka


Futurist, entrepreneur and investor with the think tanks gannaca and THE

© Christopher P. Peterka

On receipt of an invitation from the Chair of the 2017 edition of ERA Europe´s MCMS conference, Dieter Brockmeyer, I had the honour to listen and learn throughout the conference day. At its end, I was asked to share my observations and critical comments on the discussion presented. The following represents my words as spoken on stage.

“Moving between different countries, groups, and mindsets always is a challenge. Which is why I do appreciate the fact that a gathering of deeply rooted specialists like yourselves here at MCMS open-mindedly welcomes an independent observer in their ranks and takes the chance to catch a fresh outsider´s idea - or even seeks a genuinely new perspective.


Christopher Patrick Peterka (38) is a futurist, an entrepreneur and an investor with 22 years of experience under his belt. He coaches organisations globally on questions relating to the topics of innovation culture and future strategy with the think tanks gannaca and THE His particular interest is dedicated to the new rules in the economy and society of the Digital Modern era.

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Mr. Christopher Peterka



During the day I identified six items that I regard as being worth touching upon.

First of all, it is really interesting to see the change within different industries in handling words like “AI” without shrugging shoulders anymore.

At gannaca, a think tank on change and innovation culture, we perceive this change in paradigm from a historical point of view as an epochal shift from the “Gutenberg era” into the “Digital Modern” era. This is our essential thesis and underlying belief in everything we work on.

This new era encourages new lines of thinking and seems to be hard to grasp for most decision makers - especially from a European perspective. The reason these difficulties in experiencing that paradigm shift likely exist is because much of the drive that fuels this movement doesn’t emerge from this continent. And when I look at the topic of technical singularity, an important milestone, for instance this implies a kind of verification for this Digital Modern era thesis. Some very serious scientists corrected their prediction date just recently from 2040 to 2035. And let me put that as the base: this might really shake things up.

One important aspect that seems to be a no-brainer especially for the data industry but is interesting to observe from the outsider´s perspective at the MCMS, is the simple fact that regulation and disruption can’t really exist at the same time whilst both are discussed as equally desirable. The proclaimed endgame in business, most visionaries and futurists say, seems to be about speed and information access, finally. Though I have my difficulties trusting that administrative bodies will ever make it up to speed or acquire the information insight necessary to understand private business positions.

A personal opinion: I am a great fan of values and ideas, privacy for instance. And yet or because of that I think we really should practice the ability to shift our perspectives much more often. We need to really understand the new paradigms. Otherwise we lose our collective influence as Europeans, at least looked at from a global perspective. And I think we can see that happening already by looking at the numbers. All the global players we are talking about score billions of dollars in net income; some even per quarter. This is massive money which is invested into further development of very disruptive ideas and services. And of course they are not magicians, but it translates to new playgrounds and three very concrete reflections of this day.

Three very concrete reflections of this day

One is about hardcore tech: I hear people talk about VR and AR almost shyly and noticed that also for this conference there had been plans to have keynotes regarding these topics. But people seem to have drawn back and in the end presented something else. As a professional provocation, I suggest to take a second look at this. For instance, at the volume of venture capital invested into VR and AR over the last two years. Also we should grow a better understanding of what Apple comes up with in the coming Autumn with open eyes and ears. It bought a company in Munich four years ago that then completely disappeared into secret mode. I know it employs a thousand engineers working on the AR kit, that was just announced with iOS 11 alone - and then relocated to Israel. I expect it to potentially change the game even before the end of this year. Furthermore, there is a tremendous amount of companies, small ones, all working on tiny little bits and pieces that are inevitably going to dramatically improve the experience of VR and AR. One mistake, that we tend to repeat, is that we look at the things that are happening with a feeling of discomfort, because it doesn’t correspond with our very high European expectations towards a high street shopping experience, for example. Thereby we’re missing out on facts like the completely different standing points of view of a Chinese city´s citizen, for instance, who now inhabits a place that did not even exist five years ago.

Another invitation: Take a look at the cooperation between the Shanda Group in China and the VOID from the US, and the lab in Utah that they refer to as a hyper reality studio and, in my personal opinion, this is pointing to a potential gateway drug into what VR could mean. It’s a multi-sensory approach where you actually can feel the weight of the thing you touch or feel the heat of the breath of a dragon in a game.

While we’re at it: this hyper reality might become much more attractive than what we still refer to as “the reality” for now. In Europe we are still rather spoiled with blue skies and seemingly intact nature, but this is not representative for the rest of the world as I see it.

Another thing I was surprised about, was to hear so little about messengers, social bots, and the business conducted within these channels. Especially outside Europe, immense volumes in commercial business flow through channels like WeChat, KakaoTalk, and of course Facebook Messenger. I foresee a new kind of social media emerging there.

The cause of this development doesn’t surprise. The Cluetrain Manifesto from 1999 already said that “markets are conversations” and by flipping that around it makes total sense that Amazon Echo and others are so keen on listening in to our conversations at the dining table, because they learn what we would like to do for the next weekend or what we need at home.

Keeping that fact in mind, I wondered about the survey on home shopping presented by ERA in which it was reported that 51 percent of the respondents associated a “personal experience” with home shopping. That was neither mentioned nor put into context with messenger conversations  - which are highly personal. Even bots nowadays become able to give us a personal feeling during the conversation.

I am not sure we discuss the true meaning and value of data while talking about competitive advantages. What we should illuminate is how tremendously powerful an organisation becomes by owning a digital copy of a customer.

The third and last observation was the way we speak about data. I am not sure we discuss the true meaning and value of data while talking about competitive advantages. What we should illuminate is how tremendously powerful an organisation becomes by owning a digital copy of a customer. This is exactly the business model that we can see in looking at the big tech titans. At the end of the day, those companies create something we might like to refer to as “proprietary truth”.

We might even be just a tiny step away from something called corporate citizenship in comparison to national citizenship by default. By knowing so much about a society, community or group you can run it in a much more cost effective way and deliver better service. Just as Estonia and its electronic citizenship programme have proven this already.

My conclusion:

Particularly as a practitioner in Europe it becomes more important than ever to leave the office, the ivory tower, more often and apply a radical new openness to the drivers of change much earlier than we usually do.

With regard to the Gartner hype cycle, I think the phase called the “trough of disillusionment” is where the magic actually happens. We all kind of get thrown off the wagon during that time. But while we are discussing things that might come, or rather not as we focus on the failure of early trials, others already gain years of experience.

And whilst we are training a change of perspective anyway, we should probably also re-evaluate the German posture towards failure, too. Failure is practice and we could benefit from it much better than we currently do. By examining and learning from failure, we could implement the outcomes into our very own strategies building the future - today.