One thing I always like about walking around Davos very early in the morning is seeing ordinary Swiss kids on their way to school. Makes you realize: ‘Oh right, normal people actually live here!’ It’s easy to forget that because by 8am, you are literally bumping into the likes of Michael Dell, the CEO of SAP, a top McKinsey exec, and Marissa Mayer in quick succession like I did this morning. It’s ironic because all of these global poobahs are gathered here in this tiny, kind of threadbare ski town to hash out real–world problems, facing real-world people. And yet, real world people are almost invisible in Davos.
Well actually that’s not quite right. Real world people are all around us; the kids going to school, the wait staff, and the hundreds of police and others employed as security personnel. So I guess what I mean is that they’re here, but they have no voice. I’ve tried to talk to these folks a few times and ask them what they think about these high-falutin people who invade their sleepy hamlet for a week once a year. All of them pretty much decline to engage. Maybe they’re thinking, ‘it is what it is, kinda thing. Or maybe they have strong opinions and don’t want to jeopardize their jobs. Or maybe they too find the whole deal ironic.
Davos has always been a mixed bag. Serious stuff, but silly too. Well-intentioned discussions about the terrible situation in Syria juxtaposed with a session on meditation by Goldie Hawn. Nothing wrong with the former, or even the latter for that matter. I always wonder though, what comes out of all this? Does anyone really benefit ultimately? Syrian kids or even Swiss kids…
Tonight I’ll be moderating a dinner with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and a group of two-dozen CEOs. I think it’s a question worth asking them.