Christian Ulbrich: Where are we heading?

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Christian-Ulbrich-2015-96What is missing, when you stop doing what you are doing?  What is missing if you are gone for good?  Two very deep questions and I guess it would take you, as it would take me, quite some time to think it through.  Now to be clear, I didn’t come up with those questions.  It was the opening of Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, in a panel discussion this morning.  Where he was heading was that whatever we do needs to have a purpose.  I guess this is true for individuals but it is also true for products and entire businesses.  Let me connect his opening question to the world we are heading into.  Moving into the Digital Age, information transparency will reach a completely new level, up to the point that any customer or consumer will have complete transparency on any product at the moment they require it.  Where it has been produced?  Whether the production caused any environmental damage?  Whether companies and all their suppliers have paid their workers fairly?  See it as a Wikipedia on every product.  Price may remain an important component, but it is obvious that purpose and values will also become of utmost importance.  The times of child labour, environmental pollution, product components threatening your health, all these things will hopefully disappear.

As every year, when Davos is getting to a close, my head is full of new impressions and information.  This year it will take many quiet hours to really get some order into my thinking, about all the implications I can see coming from the Fourth Industrial Revolution.  As business leaders, we carry the responsibility to foresee, to translate and turn it into very practical action.  The changes are indeed massive, but from what I can see today, there are many more positive than negative implications.

In order for businesses to help the world thrive we need wise political leaders.  Davos is the place where you can interact with many of them from very different parts of the world, all in one day.  The word I heard most, from leaders from Russia, South Africa, the UK and even the EU amongst many others, was ‘reforms’.  Whether structural reforms, economic reforms, political reforms, they sometimes used different words but they were all talking about adjusting to the world of tomorrow.  We have to accept that this is a struggle, especially in a democratic environment it takes time to get to broadly accepted decisions.  My sense from this year’s Davos is that 2016 is a year of massive opportunity to see progress.  We may see an agreement between the UK and the EU in order to prevent a Brexit.  We may see a reinvigoration of the relationship between Russia and the Western World and therefore maybe an ending to the ridiculous conflict in the Ukraine.  Both topics are almost a precondition to focus on the conflicts in the Arabic World, which is essential to contain the challenges of the migrant crisis.  There is a lot to do for our politicians to continue to build a great Europe.  A place of cultural diversity, many languages but lots of shared values.  We should wish them well.  I will leave Davos filled with renewed optimism.

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