Each year, the World Economic Forum brings together leaders of more than 100 governments, senior executives of Global 2000, and prominent social activists to discuss global priorities and shape the agenda for the year ahead.
This year, I was fortunate to be able to participate in the Leadership Summit in the Alps – Davos in Switzerland. This visibility of our atmospheric state has become aware of some high-level decision-makers in the world. I got real-time insights into the direction of our world and the situational aspects we face – as species.
There are four topics that I heard during my time in Davos.
1) The digital revolution is transforming everything
We all know the impact that technology has on our individual lives, but it is difficult to gauge how fast and how these changes affect the world as a whole. Governments, businesses and individuals.
This speed of development was clearly demonstrated on the first day. Early morning's breakfast panel released my Digital Radar Study, which describes the state of the global digital revolution.
Around 80 percent of the 1,000 companies my team has interviewed have made significant progress on digital initiatives. Only about 20 percent of these companies are visionaries who deal with global issues on a large scale.
It was particularly revealing in our panel when Adecco's Chief Financial Officer, the world's largest recruitment firm, described how artificial intelligence helps bring skills into line with demand. Instead of jobs, this AI actually creates opportunities for many people. Another key aspect that emerged was the question of how many speakers and panels relied on analysis to assert themselves. From climate change to equality, every passionate point was highlighted by a diagram – often derived from Big Data – and the results of intensive analysis models.
The gap or border that was previously drawn between technology and business – and between technology and politics – is gone.
The obvious conclusion is that technology literacy and analytical skills are needed to make sound business and policy decisions and promote acceptance.
2) cooperation cultivates optimism
Davos is not just a stereotypical elitist enclave, but offers a literal forum in which leading representatives from business and politics can meet and, above all, do things.
The world of bureaucracy, where the former glacial pace of decision-making was the norm – new speed and open debate are critical to positive momentum and the ability to evoke a practical form of optimism. The feeling in the air was "Yes, we have our challenges, including some opportunities that seem impossible – but we can handle them when we work together."
In a panel on technology qualifications, Hadi Partovi, CEO of Code.org, outlined how non-governmental organizations (NGOs) can respond to specific needs and change. This coding organization has 35 million students who are now gaining valuable skills and guiding traditional local governments to redesign their curricula and education systems.
There were concerns about the closure of the US government and delays in trade agreements with China. However, there was confidence that these issues will be resolved in the next few months and that global growth and global profitability will regain momentum.
3) Physical connection matters
The world is a small place, created even more by the power of physical connection.
Today, it can be easy to live online and interact with others through emails, phone calls, and social media. It is forgotten that there is a human being at the other end.
While every Davos participant was able to participate directly online, the collaborative, optimistic spirit I have discussed above was only possible side by side because of our physical presence. This human interaction increased productivity, improved connectivity, and created an atmosphere of mutual trust that is hard to describe and yet experienceable.
It was great to be part of and participate in so many short but productive discussions. My favorite was a discussion we had with the leader of the world's leading online learning institution. After the introduction and the design of the challenge – within 15 minutes, a significant commitment was made to create a new curriculum and train thousands of employees. This commitment to training is one of many examples where the nature of the person-to-person interaction with the venue and purpose creates an action environment and commitment.
With this human contact, we were able to better balance all human connections with credible opportunities for progress. Informal talks and warm conversation were possible without wasting time on logistics and excessive friendliness. In the end, we managed to find a balance between connection and action that is rarely possible online.
4) There is a moral imperative of leadership
It is easy to talk about the world's most pressing issues, but nothing is done without taking hard decisions.
In Davos, I've heard a lot about the environment and social goals, but also value what can be achieved in the matters that lead to decisions. This was not a place for posturing or virtuous signs – everyone at Davos knew that our goals are only achievable if we are willing to compromise, leading to real progress.
During this World Economic Forum, it has been emphasized time and again that the responsibility for implementing these global goals lies in action – both in economic and political terms – among senior executives.
No one has put it better than Sir David Attenborough, supported by his capable moderator HRH – Prince William himself – who outlined the challenges of sustainability in broad terms of the choices ahead. Once again there was a sober discussion about empowering individuals and taking responsibility and ownership of the future by promising courageous collective action.
Gender equality was another topic that was discussed frequently, with a special focus on inclusion – not just diversity. The dialogue on Equality 2.0 felt purposeful and intentional and focused more on solving these problems of inequality than on polarizing stereotypes that sometimes crop up in the mainstream press.
It was incredible to spend the week in this amazing environment with people with watchful think tanks to present and receive information about the enormous challenges we face as a species.
I look forward to putting these ideas into action in 2019 and hope to return to this snow-covered bastion of world leadership in the years to come.
VP – Editor-in-Chief, Infosys Knowledge Institute
Jeff is Vice President and Executive Editor of the Infosys Knowledge Institute, the research and thought-leader of Infosys, a $ 12 billion technology and consulting firm. Previously, he was also a consulting partner at Infosys Consulting, serving production and high-tech clients. Jeff is also Associate Professor at the Graduate School of Business, University of Texas, Dallas. He is the author of the bestselling book Consulting Essentials.
Jeff holds a BS in Electrical Engineering from the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology and an MBA from the University of North Texas. He is also a board member of the Institute of Business Analytics at Indiana University and the Marketing Analytics Advisory Board at the University of Texas, Dallas.