Skeptics may wonder if anything can be achieved at the World Economic Forum's annual meeting, where goals as lofty as making the world a better place and concepts as general as collaboration and innovation are tackled in four days of meetings in an Alpine resort.
But the real accomplishments of the meeting in Davos, Switzerland may have little to do with the official events and program, or even, admittedly, the media coverage. Instead, ideas, innovations and tangible results could come from the sheer number of political and business leaders and pop-culture personalities colliding in the town (and possibly on the slopes).
Meeting of Minds
Think of it as an economic particle accelerator -- something the Swiss are keen on -- where CEOs are fired at lead singers, and hopefully some positive energy is released.
Those meetings can happen at the crowded lobby of the stately Steigenberger Hotel Belvédère (built in 1875 and so "stately" its site lists "radios in every room" as its No. 1 feature), where all the big names seem to cross paths. There are also the parties, conference hallways, restaurants and ski lifts, even the CNBC green room, and our "Heard in Davos" blog hopes to bring you the flavor of the conference as much as the number crunching or opining.
Without a doubt, CNBC's coverage will be comprehensive. We'll be interviewing -- among many others -- attendees such as Henry Kissinger, Cerberus Chairman John Snow, Merrill Lynch CEO John Thain, BT CEO Ben Verwaayen, BarclaysPresident Bob Diamond and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
But if time runs short and one of our anchors follows up with a question when the cameras have stoped rolling, or a reporter gets the inside word on a big deal, they'll be blogging about it here.
The WEF has embraced the idea that the easiest way to democratize a meeting of elite leaders in a small and remote Swiss ski town is the Web. Last year bloggers were pervasive for the first time at Davos and now WEF is taking more of a lead on digital initiatives.
In a world of YouTube presidential debates, WEF is turning the concept around slightly. Instead of asking questions, Web users will answer the question: What one thing do you think that counties, companies or individuals must do to make the world a better place in 2008?
Lots of leeway there, but will anyone at the conference hear the top-ranked answers? The WEF says they will be screened at Davos, where leaders like rock star and activist Bono, former UK prime minister Blair and former US president Clinton (in that order, kids) will hear them. But it will be interesting to see if anyone really makes time to listen to these videos or if they are just screened in the background.
WEF also set up a "bloggregator" to harness posts and videos about the annual meeting and even put a page up on Facebook.
Lots of people became members of Facebook group, but I think this post best describes the WEF's first foray into the heart of social networking:
Harrison Lynch (Springfield High School) wrote at 10:14pm on October 14th, 2007: World Economic Forum! Wooo!