Photo of me outside the Davos Congress Center taken by Commissioner Annette Nazareth of the US Securities and Exchange Commission, who just happened to be passing by when I asked if she could take my picture.
It has been nearly two weeks since Davos finished, but I still haven’t written up all my blogs from Davos. It was the most intense intellectual experience I have ever had and I could probably write a book about it. Just goes to show, I need to change my style of blogging.
There are many reasons for the intellectual intensity, the plenary sessions with some of the most important people in the world, amazing people are standing right next to you with whom can you can just start a conversation, you have the world’s experts on panels discussing the most important problems in the world, and there are dinners on many eclectic subjects that attract people from all walks of life.
However, one of the unique aspects of Davos is the ability to attend workshops that bring together people interested in many subjects from different backgrounds. You can probably set up a one on one meeting with anyone if you try really hard. You can watch the talking heads say the same thing they said on television what they said at Davos. But where else can you work in a group of 4 to 6 people who are experts in there own respective field and may actually be able to affect some of the changes recommended by the group? Where else can you sit next to a major CEO and understand where he is coming from and influence his thinking in a somewhat unguarded environment? I think this is part of what they describe as the Spirit of Davos.
These workshops attract high-level CEOs, subject matter experts and political leaders and are facilitated by people who are some of the best people I have ever seen in these types of sessions. Workshops generally have around 36 people who break up into 6 groups of 6. It’s generally potluck who you get paired up with, but chances are they share common interests. The groupings are either by subject or by the leader of the group who might be an expert who might actually be a Nobel Prize winner. The sessions are generally a little over two hours long - the time slot of two regular sessions. A typical agenda would be to have experts discuss the scope of a major problem, participants breakout into groups to brainstorm on implications of the problem, groups share results with the whole, groups go back to brainstorm on solutions, everyone shares and summarize solutions. During these breakout sessions, we get magnetic tiles to summarize our results and many people create colorful pictures to convey the message more succinctly.
I attended four of these sessions and here are the links to my blogs on each:
- Demystifying Growth and Productivity which was really a session on Global Competition.
- Collaborate to Innovate to which I was invited to attend as a contributor by the Forum.
- Designing Sustainable Cities which is an area on which I am a complete novice, but I thought I would get a chance to harangue the Mayor of London.
- Living in a Connected World - Life in 2015 was so fascinating that I am still writing up my notes
The conclusions I came to from these sessions were that:
- Working with incredibly intelligent people is humbling, but very energizing
- Pulling together highly competent people from multiple disciplines creates off the wall ideas that just might work
- By bringing your own unique competence to solving a problem, you can interact with anyone, no matter how high or mighty, as a peer
- Most CEOs are actually good listeners, but have their own strong opinions - providing a new idea or concept from a completely different angle will at least get them thinking differently
- Communicate your own perspective with a story that is personal to you - it will come out as genuine and engage the other members of your team. Make sure it is a short story though
- With that many powerful and influential people in a room, it is tempting for some to grab the agenda - just see what happened to Sharon Stone
- He who has the pen sets the agenda, unless John Chambers or Arianna Huffington are in the room
- Try to carry on the conversation after the workshop is over - blog or email. Hopefully, WEF’s plans for electronic collaboration will carry over
- Try this at home - pull together people from very different competencies and discuss one of these big problems in a book club type of format - you might surprise yourself
- Workshops are the best thing about Davos
I'll bore you with one last blog from Davos on the Life in 2015 before going on to my regular ramblings.