It is time for the skiers to reclaim Davos. The broadcasters’ satellite trucks are rolling down the hill, the great security apparatus is being dismantled and the attention of the world’s media is turning to something new.
For a few short days, Davos is portrayed as the centre of the universe. But I am interested to see the momentum that’s growing behind the World Economic Forum (WEF) regional meetings, now held in Latin America, India and China, and spread out through the rest of the year. These gatherings are held with much less pomp and ceremony (which is 100% fine with me), and they are where you really feel the force of the new world order that’s emerging.
Davos is not going to disappear. But I predict the debate started here will increasingly be sustained and shaped on other continents. That is, of course, a reflection of political and economic reality, and it is something that should be welcomed. The world is changing very fast, and it is a cause for celebration that a powerful consensus has grown behind the need to drive market liberalization, to establish firm legal foundations and promote transparent business practice. That common understanding is a prerequisite for a genuinely global debate in which common positions towards shared challenges can be developed.
A striking characteristic of modern business, and of political and social structures, is how fast power is moving away from the centre. Ten years ago, when I worked in the US, we sent out talent scouts to find the brightest and the best, and to persuade them to pack their bags and move to the US. The need for talent hasn’t changed—far from it. But now, companies can recruit brilliant graduates wherever in the world they happen to be and incorporate them into their global business.
The brains of a modern organization will no longer be hoarded in head office, but dispersed around a networked world where they can add their own local insight and cultural perspectives into the process of wealth creation.
The same forces are acting on WEF, too. Power needs to be actively pushed from the centre. The forces of globalization that are discussed so vigorously here also need to shape the future of WEF. So, in future, I predict the work of building consensus and encouraging collaboration on the many critical issues which confront us all will be conducted in the sunshine as effectively as they are now conducted in the snow.
Ben Verwaayen is CEO of BT Group Plc. He has been writing an exclusive column for Mint on the World Economic Forum that started on Wednesday in Davos. Readers can send their comments and feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org