Davos Can Create New Momentum for Change

At this year’s Davos, I think it is important we enter this meeting with the idea of change.

Alcatel-Lucent Chief Executive Ben Verwaayen
Eric Piermont | AFP | Getty Images
Alcatel-Lucent Chief Executive Ben Verwaayen

There are plenty of signs of change, but we are still struggling with how to deal with it. In some cases, we are in complete denial. We are not faced with “just” an economic crisis, but also a crisis of confidence in leadership and a major climate change crisis. We need radically different thinking, all leaders alike. And in today’s Web 2.0 communications world, we, both at an individual and country level, are all increasingly interdependent. No one can do it alone. We need to replace 20th century thinking with 21st century thinking.

In the "crisis of confidence" and need for leadership, both political and business need to step up and make the tough, long-term-focused decisions based on agreed goals and directions.

So, what can be accomplished at Davos? Davos is not about policy. It is discussion that leads to leadership at the national and global level. The unique thing about the World Economic Forum is that it offers the best platform for dialog and discussion with the world’s key stakeholders, whether they are business leaders, civil society, academics, or politicians. We have a very unclear roadmap on many issues such as financial services, energy, security, cyber-security which are all linked to our major three crises. I think we have accepted that post-war institutions have run their course, and we now need to find a legitimate basis for decision making that is effective for today’s new 21st century realities.

For me then, Davos’ real theme is the “Global Redesign Initiative," which couldn’t be more appropriate today. It is about “now what?” It gives opportunities for countries, for multi-national organizations and for companies that go cross borders to rethink how we make decisions, to discuss how we get an integrated decision-making machine that helps us to deal with the problems of our time.

It is also about how to get legitimate leadership. Here’s the world, looking to the crisis, and saying: “What does it tell me about the leadership we have in the world?” Whether you are a leader in the political sense, or in the business sense, I think the world is judging us, not on just what we do, but also on how we do it. It’s time to have a good debate on what the definition of “good and acceptable” is.

Let’s face it: we can’t do it on our own in business, or we can’t do it on our own as countries. We need to understand that we influence each other, we are interdependent and issues are all linked in a real world. But up until now, we have treated issues in isolation. Companies and institutions need to speak to each other. It is crystal clear that we can’t go inward and just think about our own space. This is a real risk. We now live in a global reality, and we need to collectively find global solutions, together.


I am a big believer in the multi-stakeholder approach. Real dialog and action with people from different perspectives is very powerful. I hope we are able to create a real momentum for change at this year’s Davos, together.

Ben Verwaayen will be speaking in the WEF Plenary Session “Rethinking Market Capitalism” on Thurs Jan 28th at 17:45-18:45 Sanada Rm, Congress Centre.

Read Ben’s blog at Davos on www.alcatel-lucent.com/blog