At the meeting of company chairmen this year, the discussion shifted from last year’s “too big to fail” – concern about the financial sector – to “too big to change” – the need for greater agility and innovation in the face of disruptive technologies and business models.
Change is happening faster than we humans can incorporate into our daily behaviors, which has broad business implications about the acquisitions we make, the organizational structures within which we operate, and the way we identify and develop talent… including on boards.
Sessions I attended today focused on digitalization’s impact on industry and whether current economic growth is an illusion. A tech sector panel agreed that technology change is simple compared with the necessary skills and behavior changes required. Certainly true!
The economic outlook? Experts here conclude that the Fed will gradually raise interest rates through 2016, but not to the point that blunts growth, and that the mystery of the current U.S. recovery is the absence of productivity growth. Also, depressed oil prices and China’s slower growth are not sufficient to derail underlying growth, although they create significant financial market volatility. There is broad recognition that structural changes to taxes, labor markets and infrastructure have lagged and are overdue.
Conversations with individual business leaders are different here than elsewhere – more casual, more spontaneous and probably more candid. The setting provides access to a wide range of expertise and opinion, and prompts discussions that shift easily from digitization and the economic outlook to real estate needs. And relationships are forged or cemented in a more personal way.
That’s the unique role that Davos plays.