The World Economic Forum Conference

15 Sep 2007|Darrel Rhea

I have been attending many international conferences this year, and have traveled modestly, but Summer Davos has been a very different experience for me. Most international conferences are actually regional conferences with some representation from a few other counties. This conference is GLOBAL and has caused me to think a little differently about the world and being American.

I have been in workshops or conversations with business or government leaders from around the world. For example, my last workshop included 3 Americans and people from Pakistan, United Emirates, Afghanistan, India, France, Spain, China, Vietnam, Denmark, Russia, Bulgaria, Nigeria, and some others I can’t remember. Everyone here has an amazing story.

This is an interesting combination of United Nations (with heads of state and royalty waking around like the Queen of Jordon), first world establishment titans, (think Global Chairman of Citibank and hundreds like him), and emerging market leaders (mostly CEOs) with businesses with billions in revenue. Quite a powerful audience. With membership requiring in WEF costing tens of thousands of dollars, conference fees of more than ten thousand dollars, and the travel costs to get to Dalian China, everyone here is here for a reason. People are eager to engage, learn, and collaborate…

The purpose of the conference is to help the world by developing the economies of the emerging markets. Specifically, the conference hopes to help support the growth of the NEXT Fortune 1000 companies that will emerge from within emerging markets, bringing wealth to their populations. The conference deals with helping them identify ways of doing this in a sustainable, responsible way.

In addition to the sessions I facilitated, one the more interesting sessions was a 2.5 hour meeting run by blind people and conducted entirely in the dark (and I mean dark. No watches, cell phones, etc. allowed). We walked in, received a short briefing, were handed canes, and were led into a maze which opened into a large room. Thirty-five of us walked around and introduced ourselves, chatted, sat at tables, served each other tea, coffee and cookies, were given team exercises, sang songs, and generally had a great time. If you ever get the chance to do this, I strongly recommend it – it is a transformative experience. It’s always good to remind ourselves how much we rely on, and are influenced by our immediate visual assessments.

Another workshop was on creating “a sustainable company” which we explored a range of biological metaphors for organizations. These metaphors ranged from the human body to coral reefs, from jungles to meerkat families. It was impressive how well focusing the participants on a rich abstraction allowed them to respond engage deeply.

All in all, I feel very privileged to have been a part of this amazing event. And I am encouraged that the role that we and others play in advancing innovation is a worthy one that is indeed creating positive global change.

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