The Davos World Economic Forum Desperately Needs a Super North Star

1 June 2022

Floyd Woodrow MBE DCM

World Economic Forum

For years Davos, The World Economic Forum‘s Annual Meeting bringing leaders and experts together from around the world, has been a focal point for any leader looking to understand the global economy or socio-political landscape. It has had Greta Thunberg through to Bill Gates take to the stage to provide their perspective on, well, the world. Since its inception, Davos has stood for globalisation, industry and economic growth. But, it has lost its way. And the reason is that its Super North Star is nowhere to be seen.

Not fit for purpose

As Davos winds down for another year, the Russian invasion of Ukraine intensifies. It’s disturbingly ironic that a European based conference focused on globalisation is taking place when Europe finds itself in a state of war. And while yes, it was a hotly discussed agenda item, what role does an economic forum pushing a globalised agenda have when shutters are being brought down and the outsourcing of supply chains far and wide is under intense scrutiny due to conflict and ideology? How can a forum focused on continuous growth exist when a matter of months ago, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its Sixth Assessment report which stated we need to be consuming less, not more? What’s more, the global elite, who flock to Davos in their jets and limos, have seen their fortunes skyrocket during the pandemic while around 650 million people have descended into poverty. Davos needs to re-evaluate what it stands for.

Finding its Super North Star

The World Economic Forum has the opportunity to redefine what Davos stands for and to develop a Super North Star, a vision of what it wants the world to look like. To do that, it has to dig deep inside each and every stakeholder and consider its role in a new world, one that requires urgent nurturing and kindness along with swift action and commitment. This refreshed Super North Star will not just align the principles of Davos with the current and future global agenda but could act as the catalyst to bring more, as yet unheard, voices into the forum. It could define a path that rewrites the ethos of the forum and its attendees and it could provide a level of strategic guidance and action that has a genuinely positive impact.

The risk of remaining still

Davos cannot remain still. It needs to embrace the vulnerability it takes to look at itself and ask important questions and then have the courage and clarity to define what needs to change. If it myopically shuffles about its existing space and refuses to provide clarity as to what the Super North Star of Davos is, it runs the risk of descending into further irrelevance and alienating larger chunks of society. Professor Klaus Schwab, the founder of the forum once stated that leaders need to have sensitivity and empathy to understand how to adapt their communication and connect to others. That leaders needed values and a clear vision.  That they need to have a compass that makes them responsible and responsive to the current situation. If it gets its Super North Star right, it could once again become a leading light for progress that the world embraces and ensure our compass is correctly aligned.