Le Big Debate

25 January 2006

1000 people sit the giant Congress Centre, ready to play the big game, the Big Debate on the future of more or less everything. Armed with facilitators,  voting technology and inspiration, we move into gear.

Laurence Summers, President of Harvard Business School, opens the debate, “two things move the world and economies, hope and fear, I suspect we have too much hope and too little fear…this influences asset prices, investment plans and delays necessary fiscal adjustments…it magnifies risks of a hard landing…we live increasingly in a market world, where everything is tested against market forces, how we match intense competitive pressure with people’s basic needs is the essential challenge”.

Second in is Laura Tyson, Dean of London Business School, “let me more mundane and talk about supply and demand…we have effectively doubled the global workforce, without deep education or financial assets. So labour costs have fallen, (sic. the laws of supply and demand)…the big challenges are to policy, not just to business, so the question is where responsibility lies, for education, for paying a living wage, for pensions…who is responsible in the changing global environment”.

Nestle’s CEO pitches in, “the dream of the global village is over for me, regions are drifting apart, look at what is happening in Latin America, it is partly because of natural resources, particularly of oil but water in the future, and we are drifting apart in attitudes, only 2% in Denmark think hard work is a key quality, only 34% in Switzerland thought technology was important for the future…and there are demographics that will move people apart, and then finally expectations, that will drift the world apart”.

Then the Chair of Reliance Industries in India. “The key opportunity for the world is to use the growth of India and China to experiment in equitable growth, today, 20% of the world has 80% of the income. India and China’s development will dramatically change this…so the question is how to partner with India and China, how does one adjust to a new world order… India and China will not sit on the sidelines of technology and innovation, we have 40% of the world’s youth…so we have a chance to demonstrate a new economic growth model for 2.5 billion people…then this can be replicated across the planet”.

Group Chief Executive of WPP brings up the rear, “we see world development in two terms, China and the internet…when we look at our clients, their biggest problem is over-capacity with low inflation, linked to increased retail concentration…so how do they get like for like growth, one way is through expansion in China and India and the second is through technology applications…so what is the ‘creative imperative’…WPP is in the differentiation business using a combination of innovation and branding…one final note, this is not new, go back to 1825, when China and India represented the share of the world economy that we are predicting that they will in 2025”.

And then we talked, but more of that anon…

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