Davos Newbies Home

***The Davos scramble
Here’s an insight into what we have to do with the programme. At 2.45pm today I learned that Göran Lindahl, CEO of ABB, and Thabo Mbeki, president of South Africa, would not make our plenary session on globalization at 6.15pm (Lindahl has been kept in bed by his doctor, and Mbeki had to get back to South Africa unexpectedly early). What do you do (that should be the interview question for someone that wants to join our team)?

I had a rapid discussion with a couple of people here and headed off to the Seehof Hotel. That’s where the governors for two groups were meeting. I spoke first to Jack Greenberg, CEO of McDonald’s. Jack is a Davos friend and he said he’d help if we needed him, but he didn’t really see his fit with the panel. So I went down the hall and found Phil Knight, CEO of Nike. Hallelujah, he agreed. We’re really fortunate we have such friends in need.

***Lessons on leadership
Procter & Gamble’s Durk Jager, Yahoo’s Tim Koogle and Intuit’s Scott Cook discussed “Managing in an Age of Creative Destruction” this morning. We successfully resisted the usual pressures to pack more people onto the panel, and the result was good chemistry and better content.

Their concluding advice for leaders? Jager: “Be lucky.” Koogle: “Allow for serendipity.” Cook: “Don’t expect to know the answers, but be prepared to change.”

***Gates, Case, Idei, Redstone, Dertouzos
Starting plenary sessions at 8.20 in the morning is generally a slightly nervous time for us. Participants in Davos are eager, but reaching a seat in the plenary hall at that time means not just getting up and having some breakfast, but making one’s way to the Congress Centre and then navigating security, which can take time.

We had no problems this morning, however. The prospect of Bill Gates and Steve Case on stage, for the first time since the announcement of the AOL-Time Warner merger, meant the hall was absolutely full. Nobuyuki Idei, president of Sony, chaired the discussion, which also included Viacom CEO Sumner Redstone and Michael Dertouzos, director of the MIT Laboratory for Computer Science.

What made the session so good was not just the cast, but the fact that Idei compressed the idea of opening statements to just a few minutes, and then allowed discussion and questions for more than one hour. Gates got one of the biggest rounds of applause when he took Steve Case’s technophilia down a notch: “I think you’ve got to get you priorities straight. It’s more important to concentrate on health and education, rather than saying, ‘You’re not well. Here’s the Internet’.”

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