Not Gloom, but 'Now What?': Alcatel-Lucent CEO

Alcatel-Lucent CEO Ben Verwaayen is guest blogging for Here are some of his thoughts related to us on the first day at Davos, including the shift from chit-chat to note- taking, the presence of Russia and China and if executives really travel here touting cost cuts.


What's the Mood on the Ground the First Day?

What's different (from last year) I think is the spirit of collaboration. People want to reach out to others and really listen. It's not like the old days where people were preaching, now it's interacting.

There is less chit-chat and more serious stuff. The sessions are packed with people with headphones on, taking notes.

And it's something more serious than "doom and gloom." You hear "doom and gloom" you feel rotten, but what are you going to do?

The energy shift is from the analysis phase much more to "now what?" And that means using very unconventional things. Maybe it's more long term than short term, maybe it take a different point of view.

People realize now you need your customers more than ever. The essence of business is to have a satisfying relationship with customers and how you add value to them, more than how can we do something financial.

On the Idea of 'Davos on the Cheap'

Cost management is part of blocking and tackling. You don't go to Davos to say "you know what, I'm going to restrict the number of people who can travel."

What we talk about here is what is the strategic opportunity. Maybe not for just one company, maybe for a sector, what do we do together?

What's the Personal Highlights?

I like seeing a lot of old friends, which is good. The croissants are better this year.

I'm not big on those "let's get together and drink" parties. If you want to walk around and say "hi, hi, hi," that's not my thing.

A highlight is Vladimir Putin coming – that's very telling – and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao: this is a different Davos than we've seen before.

Give credit to World Economic Forum Founder Klaus Schwab – he feels, like nobody else, the pulse of the world.