Its hard to feel sorry for yourself at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland…the snow glistens in the crisp mountain air illuminated by a bright alpine sun; politicians, rock stars, media moguls and the captains of industry mingle effortlessly, safe under the vigilant but unfailingly polite gaze of about 2000 armed police…but then so many things are different today.Instead of the usual mood of self satisfaction and privilege, the tone in Davos this year was positively defensive. Gone was the patina of entitlement, replaced instead with a palpable sense that at some profound level this collection of bankers, regulators and politicians had failed to read the writing on the wall, and for that omission the world as we know it will pay a stiff price. The good news is that while chastened by the financial crisis, this year’s attendees arrived in Davos with a resolve and a determination that I haven’t seen since I began attending. This was a no nonsense, get down to work, meeting. I didn’t see a single rock star (Bono doesn’t count because, well, he’s Bono). On the other hand we had an unprecedented number of Heads of State, all talking about what their governments would do to stimulate the economy, how the world community could turn this disaster into a long term opportunity, and how to make sure this kind of melt-down doesn’t happen again. Also present were most of the Commissioners of the EU, leading Finance Ministers from around the globe, and representatives from most of the major NGOs and multinational companies. In between the meetings to develop new green initiatives, to continue the fight against the digital divide, to resolve conflicts in the middle-east, and to advise President Obama on the first 100 days of his administration, a great deal of good old fashioned business got done. From an Intel perspective this was probably our most successful Davos yet. We were able to engage, in depth, regarding the global sustainability challenge; continue our leadership role in education; renew positive relationships with several world leaders and leading regulators, and interact with a bunch of customers. Not bad for 4 days work. The schedule is grueling – most of us running on about 4 hours sleep each night – the support team probably even less. But putting aside all of the cynicism and the easy cheap shots, I leave Davos this year with a strange feeling. That in a time of great global uncertainty and with the prospect of prolonged economic suffering, this annual gathering of public, private, and academic thought leaders has re-committed to its core mission, “to improve the state of the world” and may just be our best chance for some kind of meaningful change. Let’s hope so.
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