Davos World Economic Forum and Collaboration

On Wednesday, the leaders of the world gathered in Davos, Switzerland for their annual schmoozefest known as the World Economic Forum (January 23-27). At no other annual event can you find country presidents and prime ministers mingling with CEOs of the largest multinational corporations, listening to talks by thought leaders from around the globe. The theme of this year’s event is “The Power of Collaborative Innovation”. Collaboration is, more and more, the driver of corporate success; but by choosing collaboration for this year’s WEF theme, Davos is acknowledging that collaboration is also the key to solving the most pressing global issues. In previous years, the Davos meeting received more attention for the anti-globalization protesters outside the gates, but this year’s theme doesn’t seem to have offended anyone.

Presentations include Matt Parker, of Nike, describing their Nike Plus gadget–a device that you put on your shoe and hook into your iPod, and also connect you to the Internet. The system allows runners to communicate, to come together and organize races for example. Reuters’ Tom Glocer described their company’s internal innovation program, where employees are encouraged to submit ideas in a quick one-page document.

In a typical Davos event, CNBC reporter Maria Bartiromo interviewed Bono, Bill Gates, and Michael Dell. They announced their support for the (RED) initiative (if you purchase a product that is “red,” the selling company makes a donation to fight AIDS in Africa). Soon after that, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown joined a powerhouse panel that included the CEOs of Cisco and Pepsi, to discuss why it makes business sense for corporations to establish social responsibility as a priority alongside profits.

A press release dated today was titled “Collaboration Key To Success As New Initiatives Are Launched In The Field Of Humanitarian Relief At Davos.” Members companies and the United Nations announced two initiatives to bring together the private sector and the humanitarian community, to harness their collective power collaboratively.

The theme of collaboration has five sub-themes. I was particularly intrigued by the first: “Competing while collaborating.” This is a central topic of Chapters 9 and 10 of my new book Group Genius. It sounds counterintuitive; but, over and over, the most innovative companies are the ones that figure out how to build collaborative webs with partners, customers, and even with their competitors. And because my book’s subtitle is “The Creative Power of Collaboration,” you know I’m excited to see the importance of collaboration recognized by such a high-profile event.

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