Tuesday, 22 January 2008

The Secret of Davos

I'm new to Davos. This is my first visit to the World Economic Forum here but I think I have figured out what the secret of Davos is.

For all the talk of global power-broking, changing the world and moving markets, the secret of Davos can be summed up in just one word.


Yes, snowboots. There are those with snowboots and those without. The Haves and the Have Nots. The Haves trudge merrily through the beautiful, crisp knee-deep Davos snow, smiling, waving to friends, networking, doing deals. The Have Nots slip and slide along in their once shiney black work shoes, staring intently at the ground, muttering and grumbling to themselves.

From my short experience so far (half a day) Davos seems to be a great leveller. You might be a billionaire but here, if you've forgotten your snowboots you'll slip and slide with the rest of them. Want to register when you arrive? Stand in the queue like everyone else, mate. I spotted two billionaire tech legends waiting their turn in the registration line with us mere mortals.

I think that may be part of the magic of this place. Everywhere else they go, these guys have flunkies running ahead, smoothing the way, opening doors. Everyone they meet grins and laughs at all their jokes. Here for five days they get to be regular folk, joining queues, collecting conference bags, carrying their own trays at lunch. There are so many incredible people that you have to be really, really incredible to stand out and being a mere billionaire, multinational CEO or government minister just doesn't quite do it. If you live most of your life in a bubble it must be quite a relief to be treated normally and not be stared at for a few days.

So, Davos is surprisingly democratic. It brings everyone down to earth (literally if you've forgotten your snowboots!) and for a brief moment everyone's equal. Well, almost everyone.

I was standing around at the Davos welcome reception in the Belverdere Hotel on Tuesday evening, abosrbing the amazing atmosphere and watching the hundreds of powerful people stroll around when a chap came up to me and said something in German. Sorry, I don't understand I replied. He repeated in English "Where is the toilet?". I looked surprised. "Ah" he said nervously "Don't you work here? I thought...". Yes, I know what you thought, old boy, you thought young-looking black man in a suit at Davos. Must be a waiter.

Oh well, c'est la vie. It's not the first time and it won't be the last, I fear. The Davos magic can get billionaires to line up for their lunch but we can't expect it to solve all the world's problems. Can we?


Allybazz said...


B. Hyland said...

Tom, keep your grounded views of the wealthy & elite. Remember mate, they put their pants on one leg at a time every morning, just like you & me. Stay balanced & below the radar & change the world :-)