I spent a good part of the week of 21st in the cool climes of Switzerland. Chilled-to-the-bone might be a more appropriate phrase, but the overheated interiors prevent me from using it!! I was attending the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos. One of the first things that people (read the richest, most powerful, most learned and best placed human beings on the planet!) ask you when they meet you in Davos is “is this your first?”- meaning if “this is the first time you have got the good fortune of being in stratosphere, with us stars?!!” I must admit that despite feeling a bit lost, I think I did fairly well, not just in navigating my way from Zurich to Davos (and finding a place to stay in Klosters) but also spending that week usefully.
One thing that is extraordinary about this meet is that all these celebs and stratospheric human beings become ordinary mortals! So in a way it was a great leveler! The other fantastic thing about the Forum is that for people who are genuinely interested in learning, the eclectic mix of people and the quality of discussions you could have with them is electrifying. For me personally, it was the kind of experience like no other. The ambience, the people and the knowledge flow were all something I just took in, imbibing as much as I could.
I also learnt that Davos has been a popular destination for the rich for a long time, especially those who are rich…and ailing, mainly because the microclimate in the high valley was deemed excellent by doctors and recommended for patients with respiratory problems. I was told Robert Louis Stevenson, who suffered from TB, wintered in Davos in 1880 at the recommendation of his Edinburgh doctor!!! I didn’t have too much time to loaf around the little town, but in the two hours that I took out to climb a not-so-steep snow clad hill, I felt I had scaled Heaven. The place is ethereal, and the snow clad mountains and trees with the sun shining down made it surreal, almost!
At the Forum, the topic was “Collaborative Innovation”, a topic that I personally believe is somewhat impossible. After all innovation is something very personal to the individual who initiates it. Sure, there can be collaboration to breathe life into it and participation of different stakeholders would make it relevant to a broader audience, but it seems almost impossible to collaborate and innovate! I would vote for innovate, collaborate and transform!!!
The various interactions I had at Davos reaffirm one thing- that traditional hierarchy of companies is being replaced by networks- of technology and of flesh and blood. And since networks have no boundaries, I have to admit at the risk of sounding clichéd that it is clearly becoming a boundary-less world. The other thing I noticed was there was no talk of India and or v/s China. A testimony to the fact that these two nations are beginning to be recognized as powers who need to be a part of every debate, and not forcibly included! A point also noticed by some of the other Indian ministers during one of the receptions. The global power balance may be shifting slowly toward Asia, but more Asians, Europeans, Arabs and Africans want to know who will be governing next year in Washington, with the duel between Hillary Clinton and Barrack Obama commanding almost as much attention at Davos as it perhaps does in America, and every living home in 125 countries!
However, it was a treat to have the best people from countries across the world discuss topics of relevance, especially around leadership, climate change and social entrepreneurship. The discussions I had with many around these issues will stay with me for long and steered me in directions that I didn’t think were possible! This requires a separate post………….