Fast Company

Slipping Into the Future

Jeremy Bentham took over last year as CEO of Royal Dutch/Shell's hydrogen business. Here's his advice on how a big company can prepare for big change.

Envision different scenarios.
What will the world look like if it continues on its current trajectory -- or undergoes a radical shift? Shell cooked up two widely divergent pictures in the 1990s to help guide its investments in alternative fuels.

Set goals, make estimates, and hazard guesses...
They're crucial to coordinating teams and conveying a sense of urgency. "We estimate that the [hydrogen fuel] industry will take off between 2015 and 2025," Bentham says.

...But avoid unbridled optimism.
"DaimlerChrysler was projecting millions of [hydrogen] vehicles on the road by 2005," he says. That didn't happen. Luckily, Shell hadn't built a network of hydrogen stations based on the projection.

Monitor even the smallest developments.
Shell put millions into two venture funds that invest in green tech. "It's a great way for us to keep on top of new developments and understand what is happening on the cutting edge," he says.

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