The theme for the fifth and final day of the Davos Agenda was “Advancing Global and Regional Cooperation.” Also a good theme for the week overall, and it shines through in the recap of highlights below. Each of these sessions in some way illustrates the theme of cooperation, for companies, value chains, and public-private partnerships – even cooperation between humans and the planet, if extended to a more comprehensive sustainability perspective.
Was excited to see manufacturing back on the agenda, so will start with that session, even though it was the final one of the day (and week!). The Economist US business editor moderated this panel and added a lot of insight. As we approach the ‘a-ha moment’ for manufacturing in Industry 4.0, he said “the question is not what technology is available, but what is the combination of technology advances and emerging business models that will ensure that these inventions turn into value creating innovations?”
HP CEO Enrique Lores highlighted three major trends: new technology and its deployment, more resilient manufacturing systems, and the growth of new business models (like servitization).
Siemens CEO Joe Kaeser spoke of the transition from central governance to a decentralized manufacturing organization, supported by the all connectivity and decision making at the edge. With simulation bringing the physical together with the virtual world, digital twins are going to be optimized through AI and data analytics – and this will drive 40-50% productivity increase in manufacturing and bringing new products to market.
In the session on the international trading system, Merck CEO Stefan Oschmann mentioned that during COVID-19 global supply chains have actually been a strength, and the protective measures created the obstacles. In other words, governments reacted with policies that were often counterproductive. Provided a reassuring viewpoint on the cooperation between companies for the common purpose of literally delivering the goods to a global market.
Blackrock CEO Larry Fink turned the tables to don his interviewer hat. Mr. Fink spoke with Softbank CEO Masayoshi Son, who had this to say on workforce reskilling: “People have to adapt. The technology revolution cannot be stopped or slowed down. We have to educate ourselves, we have to learn.” And on whether AI is good for humanity: “Definitely. No more traffic accidents, and as long as we use the power of AI for the good of humanity – which I believe that most people are – then it is good for humanity.”
Now that Day 5 is done and Davos Agenda is in the books, it is worth looking back over the week. From this reporter’s vantage point, the highlights of virtual Davos21:
Day 1 was all about building trust, and the sessions each in some way positioned stakeholder capitalism as the best means for corporate and even government organizations to generate the trust needed for society to function more effectively, and more humanely, going forward. The quote of the day was that equality was a race between technology and education, and while technology drives progress (though unequally), education is the great stabilizer that creates resilience.
Day 2 focused on implementing stakeholder capitalism, moving from strategic frameworks like the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals and getting into the ‘how’ of people, planet, and prosperity (and principles of governance, per WEF). The sessions discussed the WEF’s 21 environmental, social, and governance metrics and the view that they were net value accretive when the full cost of non-compliance was factored in, as well as the full perceived benefit of adoption.
Day 3’s theme was stewardship of the global commons. Practically speaking, this means clean energy transition, net-zero transition, and circular economy, and each was covered in the sessions. The elephant in the room was how will these well-intended programs get funded, and what about the people displaced along the way to achieving these worthwhile goals. Implementation is a work in progress, but at least there is serious dialogue and visionary companies are taking the lead in pockets.
Day 4 was the re-energization of the Fourth Industrial Revolution story, particularly the impact of AI and reskilling. Infosys President Mohit Joshi spoke glowingly about AI’s strength in computational design and execution, yet also provided cautionary words about overcoming privacy and bias concerns. Infosys CEO Salil Parekh doubled down on the human factor in reskilling discussions, and the million learners that his platforms have already achieved through employee outreach, university partnerships, and a human-centric approach to onboarding junior talent across the globe.
Looking back over the week, you quickly realize that Davos Agenda covered a lot of ground, and it can be overwhelming. After all, it is literally an agenda to be fair, economically strong, and save the planet — simultaneously. To realize these worthwhile strategic objectives, organizations need a new operating model, and that is why my colleague Rafee Tarafdar and I wrote The Live Enterprise: Create a Continuously Learning and Evolving Organization. Through our own experience and external research with 1,000 industry executives, it has helped us establish how to understand the real opportunities and challenges of today, and to implement stakeholder capitalism for a better tomorrow.
That’s all from (virtual) Davos21 Davos Agenda. Stay safe, keep learning, and keep sharing.