Updated: Jan 20, 2020
Attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, I noticed a few things that stood out.
As the WEF was winding down, and attendees started dragging their weary bodies through the last day of meetings and gatherings like exhausted marathoners on the last mile, I was able to get some perspective. First off, I was incredibly lucky to be invited to take part in this gathering, which is truly extraordinary. While it can feel like the Cannes Film Festival for the C-Suite elite, with all the parties, exclusive dinners, and endless lines of limousines snaking through the little town of Davos, it was also something special. Never in my life have I been able to meet so many different people and the brightest minds of the widest variety from all corners of the world. Attending an interactive lab to learn about the future of A.I. from some of the worlds' renowned experts, meet young entrepreneurs, and share a shuttle with a refugee spokesperson that had the entire audience in tears with his profound statements was something I will never forget. Incredible. It was a total mind-melt and as I am still "recovering" from the information overload, a few thoughts emerge. In totality, I don't think there is anything like this event, anywhere.
I won't cover the themes and thoughts that emerged from the gathering overall--these will have been covered sufficiently everywhere else. So here go some personal observations...
1) I personally felt very inspired by many of the world's economic and political leaders vowing to make the world a better place. However, after three days of hearing what amounted to similar-sounding proclamations of wanting to better humanity, I am left wondering how many of these really will be executed in the long term. I recognize that change takes time but in the end, it comes down to accountability and commitment--and this younger generation of world changers is hungry for that now more than ever. As one of the opening sesssion participants said "we are uncomfortable, so talk to us." I know it adds to the feel good factor of an event to have some disruptors at the table, but this is where Davos can become not only an annual meeting of the biggest, but also of the boldest and become a real game changer.
To make a much bolder and significant difference than ever before, this place where companies and politicians have been and should continue to set out lofty goals, should also set up a program to show a real measure of progress from year to year. Yes, that means that commitment needs to be spelled out very clearly and publicly to a certain cause or causes, or take on something that the WEF sets out to accomplish over a timespan--but it will turn the WEF into a much more powerful game changer than it already is. This is a gathering of entities that are all about measurables, and success. So why not invite some entities to participate in a special program within the WEF--and give them added incentive for the goal and commitment setting and achievements during the event in Davos, or any other way. It shows the power of change, and will absolve Davos from the reputation of being too out of touch, and not real. Otherwise, talk is cheap.
2) Authenticity, empathy and mindfulness. It was interesting to watch some of these corporate and political leaders formulate lofty goals but grapple with how to actually live them--and how to not only communicate them as grander vision that permeates the company culture but to make sure that these values imprint on the organization. And just as importantly, how to align those values with the values of their customers. Today's consumer sniffs out insincerity in a heartbeat and those companies whose CEOS don't walk the walk, are the ones which will come across as not authentic. People pick a product not only because of its function, but also because he/she feels that the brand aligns with one's lifestyle, and the story of an individual aligns with the story of the corporation or its leader. The story is part of the narrative of the universe in which the consumer lives. It's relationships, not products--and that extends from the top down. The idea that a CEO cares deeply about detail and employee in his or her organization sets an entirely different tone that permeates the culture of the company in a deeply impactful way that is being felt by the consumer as well. Emotional intelligence is something that has become a required asset for any leader, not just at the C-suite level.
Humans feel before they think so the notion of authenticity, empathy and mindfulness is now more important than ever.
3) The power of story. Many entities still struggle how to convey their ideas, or the story of what they are trying to sell or present to the public. More often than not, it's the quick marketing mechanic instead of creating a real, long-lasting and emotional attachment to the consumer-. It's the human, rational approach is a way to create awareness or sell a product, instead of connecting with the consumer by creating compelling stories that will be with the consumer for the lifespan of the product, brand, or even better, become a part of the consumer for life. Objectives are often set up to be too short-sighted, with long-term strategy falling prey to immediate measures of impact. Storie help to create understanding and empathy, and relate to humans in a meaningful and deeply impacting way.
Any corporation or organisation has an opportunity to create stories that matter--and that go beyond the lofty articulations at an event like Davos.