Cautious optimism about future

The worst is behind us. That was the sentiment identified by the six London Business School professors who attended the World Economic Forum in Davos.


Resilient Dynamism was the theme of the 43rd World Economic Forum in January, where the debate among some of the world’s most powerful people was guardedly optimistic, while warning against complacency.  

“The optimism for recovery is there,” Axel A. Weber, Chairman of the Board of Directors of UBS, Switzerland, and a Meeting Co-Chair, declared. “The feeling is that the worst is behind us.”

Professor Costas Markides thinks that part of the solution to a range of pressing issues from the future of Europe to the transformation of the healthcare sector, is “Citizen power”.

“In the past, we needed hierarchies such as firms or governments to undertake major projects or major change efforts,” he says. “Now, we can have thousands of people, spread all over the world undertaking major projects without any of them belonging to the same hierarchy in a team or firm.  We have the tools now to mobilise thousands of people and to coordinate their efforts towards a common goal without having them be part of a hierarchy.  This is exciting!”

Professor Lynda Gratton believes one of the most pressing issues is youth unemployment. “For me, one of the emerging challenges of Davos was around youth unemployment, while one of the strongest threads of opportunity was the relentless advance of learning technologies. Combined, these two developments could lead to the paradoxical situation of highly educated people with no jobs”, she says.

Fellow Co-Chair Frederico Curado, President and Chief Executive Officer of EMBRAER, Brazil, agreed. “Jobs are the main issue. Unemployment is a huge issue for everyone,” he said.

In an echo of Professor Markides comments about supplanting traditional hierarchies, Professor Gratton says: “There has been talk about fundamentally restructuring education for years. In fact, some have seen education as the last bastion of traditional hierarchical practices. Luckily, it seems that the momentum for education for all is finally beginning to build, fuelled by lower-cost computers, greater levels of connectivity, and a willingness from some teachers to make their classes available online for free. As a consequence, there are those who say that, perhaps within the next five years, the education landscape will be profoundly transformed.”

Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, has also added her voice to the movement for maintaining reform momentum in pushing through the necessary restructuring, which will be pivotal in determining whether 2013 is make-or-break for the global economy as a whole.