When Ellen Kullman, chief executive of DuPont, asked a contract worker on the production line making Kevlar, the fibre used in bulletproof vests, what he was doing, she got an unexpected response: “We’re saving lives.”
Global business and political leaders like to talk about the long term, but persistently focus on what’s in front of their faces. That is one conclusion you can draw from the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks 2014 report, for nearly 10 years the doomy trailer to the main feature next week in Davos.
The pressing preoccupations of business, government, academic, non-governmental leaders – the “risks” that combine “high impact and high likelihood” – are: extreme weather events, failure of climate change mitigation and adaptation, water crises, severe income disparity, high unemployment, and fiscal crises in key economies. But if I were a bookmaker, I would have long since closed the betting on whether these events will occur – because almost all of them already have.
Well-spotted: the biggest and most likely "risks" are in the top right (source: WEF)
Everyone you meet at Davos tends to ask you what are the things that have most struck you about the week. If, as David Rothkopf remarks, the World Economic Forum is “a factory where the conventional wisdom is manufactured”, that is how it is done.
So, in that spirit, here is my biggest “takeaway”: it is quite possible to have a useful meeting in 15 minutes. Read more
Will the rise of higher education in the US and elsewhere be curtailed by the expansion of Massive Open Online Courses (Moocs) that allow people to study digitally rather than attend lectures and classes? Some surprising people think so.
One of them is Rafael Reif, president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He told a panel in Davos organised by the Victor Pinchuk Foundation, that he didn’t think institutions such as MIT could keep charging $40,000 a year for tuition in the digital world. Read more
Greetings from Davos, the annual shindig of world leaders and chief executives in a valley by a Swiss mountain. Or perhaps the site of a global conspiracy of the power elite. Or perhaps the place where a Swiss professor imposes his quaint euro-views on “stakeholder capitalism” on US corporations. Or perhaps one giant cocktail party.
My first task at Davos this year was a fun one: to interview Daniel Kahneman, the Nobel prize-winner and author of the best-selling book on the psychology of decision-making, Thinking, Fast and Slow.
One of the thoughts Mr Kahneman mooted in a lively hour of presentation and discussion was that chief executives, who are naturally optimistic people (for they would not be in that position if they weren’t), hold two sets of expectations in their heads. Read more
There is constant status anxiety at the World Economic Forum – am I at the best session, have I been invited to the best party, what colour badge am I wearing?
But what if the best Davos badge is not the white badge that admits you to all official events, but no badge at all? It is certainly cheaper than SFr20,000 for an official place at the forum. Read more
For the world’s financial elite, now might be a good time to be on a Swiss mountainside, protected by a cordon of armed police, and able to take one’s mind off things by skiing and popping into a private bank.