Saturday, January 27, 2007
I reckon the World Economic Forum (WEF) meets at Davos make more business sense than the UN, though both are equally ineffective when it comes to re-ordering the world. At Davos no one hears of a cash-crunch for running the show. The UN is plagued by shortfall in funding by some member states. I don't suppose, at Davos, they adopt resolutions that get routinely flouted by members.
Presumably, there is a lot more fun and booze at Davos, going by the blogs. The 800 company CEOs attending the show are encouraged to blog at the WEF online journal of its participants. A Davos delegate blogs of the night he went into his hotel bar to find something to eat, and ended up meeting some Amazon-based Brazilian social entrepreneurs - 'we ended up drinking beers and swapping stories well into the night.' Speaking of meeting people the blogger writes of the immense opportunities Davos provides. He reckons the best place to meet people are in the minivans (seating six) that shuttle delegates around various happenings spots in Davos.
The International Herald Tribune/NYT blog is my favourite. Last year they ran a post about people flocking the Google party to gawk at its co-founders - Larry Page and Sergey Brin. Besides gawkers there were, at the party, connoisseurs whose focus was on the passing drinks tray, at which 1959 Pauillac Bordeaux and 1990 Krug champagne were on offer.
The no-celebrity policy adopted by the WEF for this year was a mistake, according to an unnamed invitee cited in the NYT blog. Stars such as Angelina Jolie and Sheron Stone, who made a splash in the proceedings in previous years, were not invited this time. WEF founder director Klaus Schwab, 67, is reported to have held that the conference "committed to improving the state of the world" lost its sense of seriousness and purpose, if the invited celebs cornered much of the attention.
Prof. Schwab, in a reference to the media/delegate attention drawn by Stone in 2005 was reported to have told WSJ that she had a "bit of her own show going and that's not what we really appreciate." But then Prof. Schwab, who has been running the show since 1971, knows as well as anyone does that people go to Davos not just to discuss the global economy or the status of poverty in Africa.
A business leader, they say, could wind up spending $10,000 dollars a day on a Davos trip. Surely, he can't be doing this to lament the fate of Africans who live on a dollar a day. For the 2,400-odd delegates from 90 countries, it presumably makes business sense to be in Davos. It saves many of them half a dozen trips to China, US, India, Australia or Brazil. Global networking is what this is all about. I remember reading this refreshing take on Davos in the Deutsche Welle blog. It referred to the Davos forum as an excuse for many to gossip about designer clothes and dine on lobster - 'one must always look one's best while discussing the poor.'
Richard Branson of Virgin Atlantic, in a blog last year, was reported to have spoken of pushing a space shuttle service for public travel. Virgin's CEO said he would be on the inaugural flight with family after Enterprise completed 50 test flights. The Google guy Sergei who also evinced interest in getting into space tourism quipped he would wait till Branson had sent 1000 flights - 'we have to offer our passengers return tickets.'
WEF, experimenting last year with opening up blogs for delegates, invited participants to post on Forumblog.org what they reckoned accounted for success. Richard Branson listed his 10 points, the first of which was, 'you've got to challenge the big ones.'
Point 10: 'Be a common, regular person'.
Point 3: 'Haggle, everything is negotiable';
Point 7: 'Don't lead 'sheep', herd 'cats';
Point 6: 'Smile for the cameras'.
A young entrepreneur from Finland posting her take wrote: "I would regard myself as successful, if I am able to raise two balanced adults from my two-year old, and the younger one, aged 4 months."