Thousands of chief executives, politicians, leaders of non-governmental organisations and media folk are once again assembled in Davos for their annual debates on how to improve the world. It is a worthy affair, with “stakeholders” discussing how best to combine business with societal good, like an ersatz global parliament.
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)
Tina Brown isn’t quite the power she once was in the New York media world but the famed editor is always worth watching for what she comes up with next. Her departure from The Daily Beast to run a live events company is no exception.
Barry Diller, founder of IAC, clearly lost patience with the ongoing losses at the Beast. It is reported by AdWeek to be on track to lose $12m this year, even after ditching Newsweek, which Ms Brown tried and failed to turn round.
But, never daunted, Ms Brown, a former editor of Tatler, the New Yorker and Vanity Fair magazines, is setting up Tina Brown Live Media. A sort of newfangled conference business it will, according her press release, produce “sponsor-supported summits, salons and flash debates”.
The first question is: what on earth is a “flash debate”? The best explanation so far was provided to Erik Wemple of the Washington Post. A “source close to Brown’s negotiations” told him: “’It’s bringing a group of people together in a quick time period doing topics of the day.’” Read more
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
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
We know where many chief executives are now. In a snowy Alpine resort thinking big thoughts. But where were they over the past few months? Answer: locked in their offices, responding to multiple-choice questions, if the avalanche of Davos-pegged surveys is anything to go by.
I’ve ranted about such surveys before. Business leaders who participate tell me they find them tedious. They inevitably reach roughly the same conclusions (this year – surprise – “It’s gloomy out there”). Yet still they’re rolled out, and still they get written about (yes, by the FT, too).
The World Economic Forum – captive elite audience, massive press corps, low quotient of breaking news – is catnip to the pollsters who carry them out, and the companies that back them. So if you don’t want to risk a broken leg, snow-blindness and schmooze-fatigue by trekking to the Alps, here, as a public service, is my Top 10 of Davos surveys, ranked by number of respondents. I make no apologies for using the headlines from these polls’ press releases. Follow the links and dig into the data if you wish, but always remember: this isn’t science, it’s PR. Read more