Davos Day Two: More talk, more action

There's not much time for anyone to stand around mourning at Davos, says H&S boss Kevin Kelly...

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Davos Day Two is nearly done and the streets are finally quiet. It’s -11 degrees, which is like a mild spring day in Chicago (where we’re headquartered). The sun was out earlier but nobody was tempted to use it as a metaphor. Day One was for setting out the size of the collective task at Davos. Day Two was about getting down to business. Ben Verwaayen (dynamic CEO of Alcatel-Lucent) put it well: 'We know we’re in a crisis. We don’t have to repeat it hourly.' 
 
When you look at Davos through the prism of news providers, you can wonder what, if anything, is going on behind the rhetoric. It’s a good instinct, but rhetoric doesn’t point to inaction either. Some commentators sense a lack of contrition here. I think there’s plenty, but the truth is that no delegate has the time to stop and mourn for long. Here are some extracts from one CEO’s day.
 
Last night I dream of lying in. Get up at 6 a.m. for a conference call with our Beijing office. The year of the Ox is off to a promising start.
 
7.30 a.m: Private breakfast hosted by the World Bank. The cast list is spectacular, starting with Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the World Bank’s distinguished MD. Her traditional Nigerian dress makes me feel dowdy in my suit and tie. I talk to Peter Sands, CEO of Standard Chartered Bank. He’s always interesting, not least because he’s running it with just seven years of banking experience. On the rhetoric/substance front, their economic empowerment of women strategy includes opening women-only banks in the developing world.
 
Then I have a series of meetings with CEOs about their outlook on the year and how we can help them with leadership consulting and search. One of these is Ditlev Engel, head of Vestas which provides modern energy solutions. There is a lot of talk but also action in this field: across the globe 1,700 private equity and VC funds are focusing on renewable energy. I think Davos will prove to be an important catalyst at the macro policy level. And the economic crisis, of course, which is provoking fresh thinking in most domains. 
 
The Professional Services Governors meeting is fascinating, important, provocative. One contribution we can make in the crisis is real-time learning, because we experience all sectors and all geographies simultaneously. But what can we learn about ourselves? Are we responsible for the morals of clients? No, but professional service firms were performing advisory roles prior to the credit crunch, so they can’t describe themselves as innocent bystanders. I’m sure it will emerge as a theme in Saturday’s session on vision, values and leadership (where I’m on the panel).
 
Take part in a filmed discussion with Frank Brown, Dean of Insead and ex PwC. It’s discussion for the World Economic Forum’s Global Leadership Fellowship. Like me, he is an enthusiast for Davos. We both believe strongly that it’s mission-critical for leaders to stop, compare notes and find better ways to navigate,
 
On which subject, Professor Schwab, founder and chairman of the Forum, tirelessly promotes the ‘Davos Spirit’. It is mostly in evidence. Not, sadly, during the discussion on Gaza, where Mr Erdogan, the Turkish Prime Minister, gets upset with the moderator over the amount of time he feels he’s being given to express his views.
 
Kleiner Perkins reception. KPCB are responsible for many successful VC projects, including its iFund collaboration with Apple and numerous greentech initiatives. We do a lot of search work for them. Al Gore makes an impromptu and passionate speech. Nice way to end Day Two.


In today's bulletin:
Refinery strikes spread after foreign worker row
Honda shuts Swindon as Japan's woes get scary for UK
Davos Day Two: More talk, more action
Ford goes into a bigger spin
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