Davos could co-create a new world

In just 2 weeks the annual World Economic Forum will be held at Davos.      So much has happened in the world over the past 12 months and with this meeting given the title of The Great Transformation, Shaping New Models, it seems that the change that is needed in the world, has now been recognised.   And it is not being seen as small step change, to quote the World Economic Forum website.   “The net result will be transformational changes in social values, resource needs and technological advances as never before. In either context, the necessary conceptual models do not exist from which to develop a systemic understanding of the great transformations taking place now and in the future.”

So that gets you thinking doesn’t it?    When business education and business experience has seen leaders converge to support the development of a world around the OLD models and ways of thinking, how do those same leaders completely re-frame their way of thinking and being to create NEW models?

Well at that point, you could get a bit down-hearted, because we all know how challenging it is for people to change and adapt and how creatively stifling group-think is (we are talking about a group of leaders here).    But then I went on to read something else which gave me lots to be optimistic about.

Professor Klaus Martin Schwab, German Economics and founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum has provides some fascinating ideas on The Great Transformation in 4 new models of thinking and being.   You can read them all here:   http://www.weforum.org/content/great-transformation-shaping-new-models  but I want to share with you, what I connected with most.

Professor Schwab’s first model is what I believe holds the key to change.   He talks about fundamental power shifts that have already and are continuing to take place.    He refers to power that has become much more distributed.    What I love about this first model, which underpins the other 3 models is the understanding that the OLD world order of hierarchical power is no longer relevant, concluding that what we now need to do is integrate empowered newcomers in collaborative power.

I wholeheartedly agree with Professor Schwab that the capability to exercise collaborative power will determine the future on the business, national, regional and global levels.   This is so important.   It is not just country leaders or those at the very top of major companies that need to recognise this, it’s people who wield power in ANY role in ANY company or organisation.   We all have a personal responsibility to see how we affect others.    I really hope Professor Schwab has experienced, or knows people that have experienced (he can ask me if not!) this more subtle hierarchical power.

This subtle power is often experienced by those on the ground in large organisations, who do the work and develop the ideas that could make great change.   However, they often feel their creativity and ability to innovate stifled, by their managers, their heads of department and sometimes even their co-workers in other teams or departments that have different agendas.   You just have to read The Progress Principle by Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer http://www.progressprinciple.com/books/single/the_progress_principle to see some great case studies on this.

Whilst an excellent start would be more “Servant Leadership” that Irene Rosenfield, Chairman and Chief Exec Officer of Kraft Foods was quoted as saying in Louise Armistead’s report in yesterday’s Sunday Telegraph.  Irene is “here to help the organisation accomplish its objectives rather than employees being here to meet my needs”,  we also need to work on how we empower people in organisations, how we can get out of the way of the people that are working for us, how we can enable EVERYONE to co-create, collaborate and as a result innovate.   This is how distributed power could start to work.

I am really excited and feeling very optimistic about the discussions on The Great Transformation at Davos .   This is a great opportunity for the participants at Davos to co-create meaningful change.

Caroline Southard

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