Monday, November 17, 2008

Rebooting Davos Man?

The Economist | The global system “needs a fundamental reboot”. That was the clearest conclusion from the 700 or so Davos Men and Women gathered in Dubai between November 7th and 9th by the World Economic Forum (WEF) to discuss how to lead the world out of its current crisis. This computing analogy immediately inspired a series of pointed jokes: “Before you reboot, make sure the operating system works”; “First, make sure the power is switched on”, and (to the loudest laughter) “Let’s hope we don’t end up with another version of Windows.” Indeed.

Compared with the partying and skiing that accompanies the talking at Davos, this gathering was serious and sober, literally (alcohol not being served, out of respect for the city-state’s Muslim government, which played host to the conference). “I had people patrolling the beach,” on guard against dignitaries sunbathing, “and I couldn’t find anyone,” said the WEF’s founder, Klaus Schwab, probably in jest.


Everyone agreed that the global crisis, of which the financial system’s meltdown is currently the public face (though fuel and food are also important parts), is the most severe in at least a generation, and could certainly get much worse before it gets better. A deep recession is regarded as inevitable. “Could finance be a model for other areas in the sense that no one saw the actual crisis coming?” asked one speaker. “How long before the world is hit by a pandemic?” asked another.

Opinions were somewhat divided about who has the authority to solve the crisis. “This is the same elite that caused the problem, not the group to find the solution”, observed one brave speaker. “There is no leader in the world who can pull this together,” said another. A third speaker rallied the majority, however, by asking, “If not us, who?”

Already, a new lexicon is emerging for the rebooting phase. This is a “leadership moment”. Global co-ordinated action is needed. The unthinkable must be thought. Business as usual is no longer an option. What is needed is “restorative innovation.” Solutions should be the result of multi-stakeholder engagement, with everyone having a seat at the table. Risks must be better measured, and better managed. Solutions should be transformational, and sustainable. “Silos” are bad. Thinking holistically, connectedly, outside of our silos, is essential.