Davos, Switzerland, is indeed the beautiful place we see on the news for many of the world’s corporate and political leaders to gather once a year to talk about the future. The snow-covered Alps, five-star hotels, private jets and the truly extraordinary level of security have all created an aura that once was only accorded to royalty. The view absolutely is impressive.
But while the bright lights, cameras, microphones and social media all tell us something important is happening here, none of it gets to the heart of why the World Economic Forum at Davos is really important. It is one of the few…and maybe the only…times all year when leaders from around the world come together to talk about the longer term.
It may not be obvious at first glance but today’s increasingly attention deficit disorder world means that a five-minute conversation is often considered in depth decision-making. CEOs are frequently focused no further ahead than the next quarter’s earnings announcement. Elected officials are similarly totally absorbed by the next election, which often is no more than two years away at best. And scientists and other researchers have little choice but to concentrate on the next funding cycle.
That’s what makes the theme of “The New Context” at this year’s meeting of the World Economic Forum so exciting. Asking leaders to step out of their comfort zone and think about the future – the past-the-next-earnings-report, after-the-next election and beyond-the-next-fiscal-year future – that few get a chance to discuss with their peers.
These are the same leaders who usually spend their time fighting economic, political and legal fires as they deal with crisis after crisis. In most cases they are also the ones who will be in their current positions and have access to information and other resources for a relatively short period of time. The future is increasingly left to the next generation of leaders.
There is, of course, something disconcerting about asking current leaders to think about what life will be like without them and to get them to commit to making things better for the time when they’re no longer in a position of direct power. Unless you’re Mother Theresa, that’s actually counter to human nature.
That’s why the WEF’s decision to include younger leaders in its program is extremely encouraging. It means that the information, advice, and intelligence shared at the 2015 World Economic Forum will have an even greater chance of having on impact in 2016 in beyond. It also means that future WEF programs will be able to start from an even higher level.
And that makes the already extraordinary view from Davos even more impressive this year.
Stan Collender is executive vice chairman at Qorvis MSLGROUP.
Global Communications Report 2016
The definitive annual study of global PR industry size, rankings and trends.