Heard in Davos 2012: Dispatches from the Conference

Thriving (and Surviving) in Davos


This was commissioned as a piece on "surviving’ Davos" – but given the World Economic Forum is basically a week of rubbing shoulders with the world’s wealthiest and most privileged in a luxury Swiss ski resort "surviving" doesn’t seem appropriate.

International Monetary Fund Special Adviser Min Zhu, Wipro chairman Azim Premji, Professor of Economics Nouriel Roubini, Time International editor Michael J. Elliott, WPP CEO Sir Martin Sorrell and Ernst & Young CEO and chairman James S. Turley.
Fabrice Coffrini | AFP | Getty Images

So let’s run with thriving….

Throw together several thousand CEOs, a bunch of politicians (Presidents and Ministers ideally), and a good spread of single issue NGOs and chill down gently to alpine temperatures.

Occasionally mix them all together in set piece debate, or warm up in a cocktail party and leave to infuse.

It’s been the recipe for Davos for as long as I can remember, and it's regularly described as either a huge waste of time and money, or a useful time out for global decision makers to think about "big picture" issues like climate change, unemployment or the "crisis Du Jour".

This year the most talked about issue will be the outlook for Europe, and whether the current debt debacle is any closer to resolution.

The timing is delicious; the Davos event leads us neatly into a major European Leaders Summit in Brussels on Sunday 29th January.

It is the first major gathering of European heads of state sinceS&P cut the AAA rating of France,and dropped ratings on a slew of other European countries.

Expectations are not high; the markets have been beaten into lowering their excitement levels by several years of meetings that have under-delivered.

But could this one be different? That will be the question that trips off the tongues of the corporate cognoscenti as they consider capex levels, business plans and where Europe fits into the 2012 strategy.

And this is the bit that really matters, the reason why we traipse up that long mountain road every January.

As the euphoria of the New Year celebrations melds into the steely cold reality of a world facing sub-par growth (and Europe probably in recession) we have our microphones ready.

This is how we thrive in Davos: by catching this concentration of decision makers in reflective mood.

Even better if we get the odd market-moving sound bite which helps our viewers make money.

Oh, and if you wanted to know about "surviving’ Davos", that’s easy.

Follow your mother’s advice: a sturdy pair of snow boots; several layers of clothing; good gloves and a warm hat; and plenty of alka selzer, for both post party indigestion and a palliative when the business message is hard to swallow!