Some thoughts on the WEF conference
There were hundreds (perhaps thousands) of issues discussed, but the big themes arising were the Eurozone crisis, the jobless situation particularly among the youth, the impact of social media, the questioning of the capitalist system and the gap between the have’s and have-nots (included/excluded; in-system/marginalised). Naturally, there was also discussion around the ubiquitous topics of energy, social entrepreneurship, visions and values.
I had (still have) a level of discomfort about the composition of the gathering. The governments, regulators and financiers, who must hold some of the blame for what is a less-than-comfortable world economic environment, are those selected to discuss the situation and what should be done about it – without much input from the other 99,999% of the world who are trying to muddle through the mess. And doing it at a venue that costs most of the business people about $40,000 to attend the 5 day event!
A classic example, Vikram Pandit (CEO of Citibank), co-chair of the Forum said “Jobs should be our number one priority”. A few stats about Citibank: they took a $45bn bailout, share price has fallen 91% since Pandit took over in 2007; they announced a 4,500 job-cut in December and Vikram received a $3,7m bonus for his 2011 performance. I am sure some must doubt his capability to envision and champion job creation schemes.
Having said that, I do fully support the Forum and believe Klaus Schwab’s initiative is very important. Perhaps there were fewer solutions forthcoming in this round, but at least the debates were had and new ideas put on the table. Furthermore, despite the tough times and apparent insurmountable problems, the almost TED-like feeling of optimism and good-will that most delegates take away has to be a good thing given the power that many of them wield.
One of the sources of optimism and a highlight of the conference, was the input from the 70 YGL’s (young global leaders) who were invited to participate. Many of them with fresh perspectives on issues and with significant successes already achieved, they offered a new energy and challenge to the status quo. I can recommend watching the closing video (Note: WEF web-site sometimes has some technology issues in accessing the videos – keep trying!)where 4 of those YGL’s were on the podium – including a young South African woman: Rapelang Rabana. She was an inspiration, especially in comparison to the tired panel called “Africa: from transition to transformation” chaired by Gordon Brown and with 5 African heads of state including SA’s Zuma – all except perhaps Condè (President of Guinea), were embarrassing to watch as they blamed everyone and anyone (except themselves) for non-delivery on the continent and seemed unable to articulate an inspiring and credible vision for Africa. (The fact that some of these leaders continue to address Gordon as Mr Prime Minister left me wondering if they knew he is one of the millions who has recently lost his job!).
I would encourage Klaus to continue including these Young Global Leader’s and also try and open it up to other inspiring segments of the world population who are making positive changes in the world – after all you don’t have to be in the top 0,001% of the worlds richest or less than 30 years old to “make a dent in the world”.
Another theme that is not new, but is increasing in importance and close to our hearts here at Genesis, is the issue of collaboration in decision making. As leaders become more alert to the ramifications of their strategic decisions and the impact that the outcomes have on many lives across continents and even generations, there is a growing acknowledgement that more people must be included in the decision making process. We are not saying that all decisions should be consensus decisions; in fact, we believe the overlap between consensus decisions and intelligent decisions is probably not that large – but where possible, “outcome-stakeholders” need to give their input. Not only by reminding decision makers about the potential impact of the decision, but frankly many people who do not sit at the boardroom table are able to offer crucial, creative and critical insights into the deliberations that could have a significant impact on increasing the possibility of a good outcome. Given we are in a world where many problems require new and innovative solutions and not simply a refinement of past responses, the broader and richer the input, the more likely we are going to make decisions that take us to new heights in growth and exciting, positive results.
At Genesis, we have been lucky enough to find technology partners who are able to provide solutions that can take us beyond old, stale ways of thinking and more importantly allow us to creatively and rapidly gather rich inputs from a broad range of stakeholders. These inputs are important whether we are solving problems, taking decisions or crafting new strategies - and we would be happy to see how we, or our partners, could help you to gain these benefits. Call or mail me for a discussion or demonstration of some of these tools.
Let me leave this summary with (my interpretation) of the thoughts of 3 of the young global leaders when asked what advice they would give the “older generation” when addressing the tough issues of today:
- Listen: to everyone, not just your colleagues in the boardroom. Listen to youth, disenfranchised people, women, customers … really listen!
- Do not always think linearly – think divergently and creatively.
- Consider new technology and the scalability that can be gained through harnessing some of the tools available.
Teach a man to fish, you’ll feed him for a lifetime. Expose a man to the Internet & you’ll change his life.