Tag Archives: World Business Forum 2009

#WBF09 Economists – World Business Forum and Our Economic Future

It’s taken me a while to pull this blog together after the World Business Forum 2009.  I specifically left out the economists (David Rubenstein, Jeffrey Sachs, and Paul Krugman) because they really made such an impact on me.  And in some ways, this wasn’t a positive experience.  Needless-to-say, I have incredible admiration and respect for each and every one of the economists who spoke.  On the other hand, collectively they made me really question what their real role is and what it should be in guiding our economy.  I really questioned what each of you were trying to achieve.  Information without action just doesn’t seem enough to me.  (Nothing would thrill me more than to have them comment on this blog – actually, I dare ya.)

First we had David Rubenstein of the Carlysle Group. He’s obviously well educated and thoughtful of what he sees and says about what he sees.  However, he can also deliver most negative news in such rapid fire that you don’t know what hit you.  At one point I couldn’t believe there was more…and more…and more.  His likening of the recession to a hurricane made me pray we weren’t in the eye of the storm because the way he described it would only be tolerable if it passes soon.  He claimed, “The dollar is going to be less and less significant to the global economy and that’s going to be a problem for Americans.”  More over, the nation will have to cut its debt and increase taxes to fix the problem.  In contrast, he’s demonstrated what a great American he is by purchasing and donating Magna Carta, Declaration of Independence, and Emancipation Proclamation signed by Abraham Lincoln to the National Archives.  Not sure I understood what went wrong but rather that everything just is wrong.  Although I was numb by the end of the discussion, he did fondly remind me of my Econ 101 professor who I could swear was on speed at 8 AM in the morning.  Who needed coffee?

Also speaking day 1 was Jeffrey Sachs of the The Earth Institute.  He’s very likeable and therefore easy to listen to throughout the talk.  My only issue was two economists in one day is just a lot of economists in one day.  I felt he took on topics that are side-stepped on a regular basis. Although his, too, was a very negative dialog, he was truly dealing with the issues no one seems to discuss.  For example, he hit bipartisanship right between the eyes as a key catalyst for economic failure in the U.S.  Sachs described policy-making as something that happens behind closed doors and by parties focused on their own interests. Sachs also addressed climate change and population growth as even bigger issues as the competing demand around the globe continues.  Clearly, he believes that good global citizenship through cooperation is the only path forward. It’s more than policy or good will, rather a need for our own survival. This economist had the most impact on my perspective until his politics started to show.  I just want facts and perspective, and not politics. 

This same theme of failure in Congress was carried forward by Paul Krugman on Day 2.  He has a very smooth style with lots of numbers and charts.  Plus, his talk was quite long.  At one point I tweeted it was like being in one of my 800 student classes at Penn State where I was still looking for the point because it might show up on the exam.  Incredibly brilliant for sure. Quite arrogant as well. At one point he told the audience, “Only economists understand globalization.”  He sees the Government as an economic stabilizer putting the Apocalypse on hold.  Yep.  Another cheery discussion. He does love his work as he claims, “As an economist, I love it because problems make great analysis for an economist.” At the same time, he could be funny.  When discussing trade with China, he says it’s a fair exchange, “They send us poison toys and we send them fraudulent securities.” Skeptical, smug and funny.

Ok. So here’s my take away.  Although incredibly smart and able to connect dots the normal public doesn’t connect (or know how to connect), they were all way to negative to be heard.  Comments like “shoot me.  shoot me now!” permeated the Twitterverse.  Is there no hope in this science? 

What’s the point of truly modeling the history events if the variables upon which the future will be based will change?  At what point does the economist community’s unique knowledge of what happened help us prevent it from happening again?  The whole retrospective approach seems unfair unless you use that information going forward.  But I can’t hear you because you’re too exposed in your political views (yes, I turn off always).  A catalyst speaks the truth they know rather than carry the agenda of others.

And, if it’s true that normal people can’t understand global economics then what are you as a group of scientists doing to fix that?  None of you speak English – well, I believe Jeffrey Sachs can if he wants to.  Isn’t it your responsibility to help us make a difference in our behaviors? After all, isn’t that the economic variable you can’t predict with reliability?  Wouldn’t one conclude that if I actually understood the ramifications of my choices, I might make different choices? I can’t sit through lectures with slides to get this detail – doesn’t work.  Oh, media!  You’re part of this issue, too.

And my final question.  Where were you?  If you have all this data, saw the recession coming, and saw the fall of the housing market, then why did it happen? And don’t give me a political response.  I don’t care about sides and agendas.  I want facts without blame – that’s the easy way out. 

As a business person, I think corrections are always necessary and healthy.  So, maybe I see the opportunity in the current crisis and hope it makes some better. Therefore this negative line of thinking really does bother me.  I didn’t get an ounce of where opportunity might be other than in scarce natural resources in Sachs talk.  In other words, these talks were informative, but not actionable for me.  Maybe that’s why I never hear them, yet they seem to have lots of really good stuff (that’s a technical economic term).


The Future of Female Values – A Chat with Larry Berezin

In response to a question from @LarryBerezin in a comment, I created this response.  I’m hoping it’s a good blog that you all like.  🙂  He asks:  “What are your thoughts about the changing style of female leadership, in the political and business arenas. Can you share some examples of women who lead with ‘values, collaboration, transparency and trust.'”

I believe women have decided to change themselves, and what they choose to address is what they think is expected of them. I know I did. It diluted my power and potential, but was perceived as successful. (Always bothered me because I know in my heart of hearts that I am more successful using my true abilities that I learned to hide.) Ahhh. The benefit of experience and 2020 vision.

I know I’m not the minority. It’s confusing to enter a man’s world. (Note, I’m old – ha! I entered the workforce in 1984.) I simply didn’t have the requisite knowledge to succeed in this environment. Trial and error was the only mode of operation. And, the women above me fought so hard, they didn’t learn when to stop. (Read: few role models I really wanted to use.)

Well, I’m into paying it forward these days. Every female executive is REQUIRED to share their learnings in context of this time and must find the patience to allow the real talent emerge. We must support the evolution required to get management 1.0 to management 2.o, and allow women to play their role not because they demand it but exemplify it.

My take on this generation is they don’t see the divide that I did. Good for them! It only exists if we let it. It’s a start toward the goal.

Who knows who will emerge as key, known women. There are way too many factors and conditions to tell. But they will. Studies show it. Have they emerged? Hard to tell, women aren’t good at PR. I go to a lot of women-oriented events and there is no lack of talent. However, I’m not aware of anyone FAMOUS that I’d like to set out as an example. I can’t think of anyone you’d know (so sad), but I can think of plenty like Dean Mary Futrell from GW’s Graduate School of Education and Human Development.

Now, what’s incredible is the #wbf09 parade of men walking the women’s walk and talking the women’s talk. If women don’t wake up I’m going to have to kick them in the…[fill-in-the-blank]. The opportunity is now to just leverage what you have and be the best you that you can be! Now, is that comment for women? Nope! But, it’s a matter of time before you and I are exchanging ideas of women who meet the model. 

Let the exchanage begin!

#WBF09 Day 2 – Experiencing the World Business Forum

Day 2 of the World Business Forum was fabulous.  The speakers were great, but the best part was sitting in the balcony tweeting and blogging with some of the most interesting people I’ve met in ages.  It’s been a LONG time since I felt so at home.  The dinner the night before really helped to get to know folks only to find out I follow them or tweet with their siblings all the time. 

I have to admit I missed most of Dennis Nally‘s presentation. Dennis Nally was clear on communication highlighting the perils of pretentious prose.  He made a big push to return to trust through transparency.  He also set a focus on values.  I have to share this theme rippled throughout the two-day event.  I personally was glad to see it as a constant, recurring plug for honorable acts driven by integrity and commitment.  Plus, having spent many spent many years in a consulting institution that really did focus on values, I particularly appreciated hearing it from the head of PWC because they have an opportunity to carry that message in to many organizations and be heard.  Go forth and prosper!

Starting off the International Insights Panel Franscisco Gonzalez. He talked about “transformation renewal.”  Think about.  Claimed (like others) the major issue we face is moving from our short-term vision that drives business.  He believes the financial crisis was caused by “short-termism.”  He’s totally right.  I felt the same when working with my investors. Being driven for my monthly targets (yes, monthly not quarterly – ouch!), I didn’t have time to even pace sales development and it undercut the pipeline.  I hope someone is listening to Franscisco because this message is critical to business success in the future.  He clearly articulated how his industry must change, and how he’s leading the way.  Keep an eye on this guy.  He described his business demonstrating what others (like Kevin Roberts from Day 1) advocated. 

Peter Voser of Royal Dutch Shell was next.  He added a wonderful outside perspective on what’s happening here in the U.S.  I almost had a heart attack when he said “U.S. has a powerful  contribution to make on the world stage. Many nations are paying close attention to what happens in Congress.”  Guess that shows my faith in Congress.  I’m not sure we have the leadership necessary to drive the world, with China, to an effective level of globalization that is already here. He challenges the U.S. to take a lead and set the world on the path to sustainable energy future. Again, I’m afraid. Very afraid our leaders are not U.S.-focused (as often accused), rather so vote-focused (which is just down right selfish) that nothing will happen.

One pleasant surprise of the day was Morris Chang, founding chairman of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC).  He exudes experience and polish.  He’s been in the semiconductor business 54 years and witnessed 8-10 downturn cycles.  He believes this recent crisis was the second most severe claiming the 2000-2001 Internet bubble pop was much bigger. Kudos to TSMC for spending 10% more in R&D this year.  He believes America has the best technical universities in the world, which raises the question how many of these students are Americans and how many stay.  Do we train then drain?

Lucky for us, Robert Agnelli from Vale, a global diversified mining company, came to share the stage.  This good looking individual with a charming personality filled the room with hope and optimism.  He’s intoxicated with competition for natural resources and believes the impact on the land can (and should be) managed. Loves China’s demand and compliments their foresight to secure their supply of natural resources.  He believes the most important thing is the quality of your assets.  Viva la competition!

As if the day weren’t already a great one…there was Gary Hamel! The Wall Street Journal recently ranked Gary Hamel as the world’s most influential business thinker.  And I totally see why.  The richness of his insights, passion behind his call to action and clarity of “why now” can not be fully captured by me.  The theme was clear.  Management is a technology, a social technology, and it hasn’t changed for decades. Yet look at technology in general. It’s changing at such a rapid pace that business are forced to adapt quickly.  The pace of change is hyper-critical.  Yet our methods of getting organizations to deliver haven’t budged.  Interesting premise.  Management has stopped evolving and varies little from firm to firm! He claims it takes a financial meltdown to get a real shift in management – careful what you wish for, Gary! Read all his work.  All his articles.  Practice his concepts where you can.  He’s really onto something and believes there is a path forward for those who want to find it.

Finally, a female executive graced the stage.  Irene Rosenfeld, CEO of Kraft, talked about the success she’s had turning the company around.  There wasn’t a whole lot of new material other than the discussions around Oreos, which made me hungry (great product!).  After hearing about “noble causes” being a catalyst for the future and necessity in business (thanks, Kevin Roberts), I began to wonder where Kraft’s noble cause will be. They have a real opportunity to help families deal with the over sugaring and mass over-processed food problem that’s affecting weight in the U.S.  Overall, I would have loved for her to stand up and show us how her innate abilities (as a woman) are natural and complimentary to the lessons of Lencioni and Hamel. After all, leading with values, collaboration, transparency and trust have often been attributed to common traits of female leaders.  (Yes. We have all seen the other side of that female-leadership style, and that’s not the side I’m referring to.)  I didn’t see evidence of it.  She has mastered (or naturally possesses) an old-school (read: male dominated) focus on numbers and results – that is, maintaining value for investors. Yes, I understand that’s the way the world turns today, but it’s that linear, near-term focus that makes me worry about the future of U.S. companies. I hope she leads by example by creating the next series of case studies using some of the concepts discussed in this forum.

Finally…after being frisked, scanned and having dogs slobber into my bags, President Bill Clinton reached the stage.  Now, I’ve seen Al Gore before in a pharmaceutical conference taking credit for AIDs drugs.  I honestly didn’t have a great impression of that President/Vice President pair after that.  In fact, I didn’t vote for Clinton.  But, I have to admit he is amazing. He’s knowledgeable, gracious, and committed to making change “in the areas that he can affect.”  Well, Mr. President, you can make a huge difference, and you should go for it.  He’s very focused on bringing equality around the world and made a pretty good case why that’s important.  He calls it recognizing our interdependence instead of globalization, largely an economic term.  That’s honestly a good distinction to make.  I now see my role more clearly as a member of this mass interdependency. Thank you, Mr. President. 

About what about congress?  Clinton said, “It’s like the cat.  Once it sits on a hot stove, you’ll never see it sit on a cold one either!”  I think I like the boiling frog story better. The story goes that if a frog is placed in boiling water, it jumps out. But when placed in slowly heated cold water, it doesn’t understand the danger, stays in the pot, and is therefore cooked to death. It’s a metaphor for the inability of folks to react to important changes that occur gradually.  You decide. I still can’t reconcile what appears to be a need to acquire votes at all costs – picking the near-term need over the long-term potential.

We also saw Paul Krugman.  I decided to reflect on all the economists (including David Rubenstein and Jeffrey Sachs from Day 1) in a separate blog.  It was an interesting experience to say the least.

The end – part 2

#WBF09 Day 1 – Experiencing the World Business Forum

I’m new to this – being an official blogger at a conference.  I have to tell you I love it.  Hear ye, hear ye.  Anyone who needs an official blogger to share the conference with the outside world live and real-time, just let me know.  These are the fastest two days of the year!

The World Business Forum has been amazing from the organization (great work HSM) to the speakers (not a slouch in the bunch) to the audience (some great questions whether the speakers can see them or not).  And, I’ve done a few conferences in my time. This one is different for me, but it could be my vantage point in blogger’s row viewing from the balcony in Radio City Music Hall.  Not a bad seat to be had.

The first speaker was Bill George who we had the opportunity to meet the evening before at a little reception he had where we received a copy of his new book 7 Lessons for Leading in Crisis.  Bill gets to the heart of the real issue – taking responsibility and being accountable. Stepping up.  He asked us, and now I ask you, “Are you willing to step up and make a difference in a crisis?”  Well, are you? 

Next we had Bill Conaty, who wasn’t popular with the bloggers.  He’s old school.  Has that old management-style feel and just came to share experience and observations.  As a result, he wasn’t very entertaining, yet quite insightful.  His perspective is that the HR department is the “trustee of the social system.” How true. So, Bill, why do I see HR departments all over the country concentrating only on regulating policy and measuring compliance?  Hum.  There’s a void! Less attention to the lubricating the social systems than the legal system. I’m sure this is a contributor to the mistrust we heard is continuing to build throughout organizations.  Hum. Might that be an opportunity?

Pat Lencioni is simply a rock star. If you don’t own a copy of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, you should. He’s totally “new school” management in principle, practice and attitude. He sees the future requires a different understanding and approach. He wants to help organizations adapt. Now, pay attention and follow leaders like Pat who will take us in a new management direction. What I liked most is his ability to share wisdom, faith and hope. It’s motivating. This is how we change the future and build better economic strength in our companies while bringing everyone along. How do you lead?  Do you build teams that thrive? This will be a key competitive advantage of the future, for sure.

I really wanted to see T Boone Pickens because I suspected he would be an incredible man.  He is.  And he’s on a noble mission. Visit this link to join his cause and be part of the “Picken’s Army.” Yes, He’s honestly about we the people rather than we the bureaucrats.  I can only hope that he succeeds – if anyone can, he will.  He’s honest, knowledgeable, and focused.  He has a southern charm I really miss now I live in DC.  My favorite quote was this when asked how his companies would benefit from his initiatives. “If I wanted to make money, I wouldn’t have spent $62M – I would have kept it!” 

Seeing creativity in action was needed.  Kevin Roberts, of Saachi and Saachi, kept us totally alive and intrigued with his rich and interesting videos.  (I’m going to ensure my work creates such fun and creative results going forward – inspiring.) He focused on the changing reality of marketing. We’ve moved past attraction and into making emotional connections.  How true.  The movement from being irreplaceable to irresistible. “Lovemarks include mystery, sensuality, and intimacy.” Have you looked at your brand lately?  Do you really connect with your customer base or just sell into it?

Last, but certainly not least.  The obewan we waited for – George Lucas.  Truly focused, humble and lucky.  What an incredible story from a very private man.  He made a whole lot more films than I knew about.  His message wove around key themes of trust and transparency.  Trust and transparency – the lasting themes of this conference.  Genuine George.  What a great way to wrap up the day.

We also saw David Rubenstein and Jeffrey Sachs.  See separate blog on this. Not sure exactly how to capture this experience yet.

The end – part 1

We’ll Be There! – 2009 World Business Forum

I’m so excited! I’ll be blogging at the World Business Forum where “top business, political and academic figures meet to debate the most pressing issues of the day.”  The line up includes Bill Clinton, George Lucus, Gary Hamel and a host of other incredible contributors.  (Really, check out the speakers list on the website World Business Forum .)  The dates are October 6-7.  If you can join us, the Forum will be held at Radio City Music Hall in New York City.  Please find us to say “hello.”

Julie Lenzer Kirk and I will be Official Bloggers at the conference.  We hope you check out our blog entries and follow us on Twitter as @yourboot (Julie) and @chiefcatalyst (Renee).  We’ll have access to all the speakers for questions.  What would you want know?  Who knows – maybe we’ll get a chance to ask your question! 

Again, check out the list of speakers and topics, and then send me your questions.  More importantly, I’d really like to be reporting on topics you find intersting. That will be far more exciting for both of us – trust me :-).

I’m really excited to be part of the conference and share my findings with you all.  Help me make it an interactive event and share the information with others who might be interested but who can’t attend.

See you virtually there!