I pulled my thermal cap and black leather snow boots out of my wardrobe and packed them in my suitcase. I had bought these winter items in the city of Davos when I was here last, and had not used them since. In any other city, my usual means of transportation is the taxi. Walking on a snowy road in a suit or holding a meeting in the cold is almost inconceivable in my normal work.
But in Davos, even with conference venues located outside the main venue in various hotels, there are few or no taxis to take you from one venue to another, and the shuttle buses available only travel in one direction and are inconvenient. And without an assistant to accompany you, you have to carry your luggage on your own as you walk the snowy streets.
The last time I was in Davos, I was trudging through the snow, when I looked up and saw George Soros walking along, wearing a bulky coat and a cap. In the hotel cloakroom, I met Laura Tyson, former Chair of the U.S. President’s Council of Economic Advisers to President Clinton. Everyone was making sure they were protected from the cold.
Davos is probably the only place where people like this walk along roads in the snow. It’s probably rare for them even to walk alone. But in Davos, you have to do it. I didn’t know about it at first and I went wearing normal leather shoes, but on a snow-covered road this is the most dangerous thing you could do, so I very quickly bought myself a pair of leather snow boots and a black thermal cap.
I will be attending the Davos Conference once again. I last took part in 2004 and 2005, so it will be my third time and the first in five years.*
Although I simply said I would “attend”, in fact receiving an invitation from the Davos Conference is quite difficult. Basically, about 2300 people attend the meeting every year, of which over half consists of people known as Foundation Members, who include the senior management of 1000 major corporations (which must have sales of 500 billion yen or more) and of sponsoring consulting companies, investment banks and public relations companies. The remainder consists of politicians, representatives of international institutions (including the UN, World Bank, IMF, OECD, EU, and so forth), academics, members of the media, artists, NPO representatives, and religious leaders. I mentioned politicians, but the only ones allowed are heads of state or senior ministers. There are restrictions on the academic side as well. Likely the only chancellors attending from Japan would be two or three from Tokyo and Keio Universities, and the only professors who get invited are those with a global reputation. It’s an exclusive gathering.
The last group of invitations is reserved for about 200 participants to the Youth Program such as Young Global Leaders and Technology Pioneers. This Youth Program selects 100 youths every year who have the potential to play major roles in the future. Those eligible for this program can participate two or three times for a limited age range, from their 30s to their early 40s. After that, they fall outside the Youth frame and so have to come as one of the representatives mentioned above.
These limited invitations become the subject of competition among advanced Western nations and new developing countries such as China, India, Russia, Brazil and the countries of the Middle East. Only the representatives in each group who are ultimately selected from around the world get to gather at Davos in the winter.
I initially participated in the 2004 and 2005 conference as part of the Youth Program, but after that I was no longer eligible and so couldn’t take part. Yet I was fortunate enough to receive an official invitation this year. I’m thinking it largely owes to the diligent strengthening of our presence at global conferences and to the improved social assessment of Globis University and Globis Capital Partners. Either way, I’m allowed back to the Davos Conference.
So why do world leaders gather at such an inconvenient place in winter in the first place? What’s so appealing about it? I don’t know what others think, but I do have my own idea, so I’ve decided to write down my own motives for attending the meeting.
(1) First, I want to learn from leaders. Since I left Sumitomo Corporation, I’ve never had a boss. This means I have to learn from people who I meet outside work. That’s why I’ve made every effort to meet people who can lift me to greater heights. The Davos Conference is a gathering of leaders from around the world. It’s almost like a trade fair for global leaders. What do these global leaders talk about, and in what way? How do they act? What are their thoughts? And compared to them, what am I lacking? Those are the things I’m here to find out. In other words, I come to learn from global leaders and to improve myself.
(2) I have also come to acquire the latest knowledge. The world’s brains gather at Davos. I get to know what is going on at the forefronts of science, finance and politics. I try as best I can to poke my head into fields I don’t know much about. That’s because by doing so, I believe that I can expand the breadth of my own knowledge by at least some degree.
(3) And lastly, I have come to develop my own network with global leaders.
That obviously includes my intention to have a network among global leaders prepared for the time when Globis becomes the No. 1 business school in Asia. But more than that, I come because I have the ambition to someday become a global leader myself and play a part in solving global issues.
In 2004 and 2005, I came in contact with global leaders while stumbling through the Davos streets. That was when I developed my ambition to become a global leader myself. And here I am this year, returning to Davos. I had attended the past two years as a general participant, but this time, I’ll be taking the podium as a panel speaker for a subcommittee. In a big step forward, the Davos program will list my name and the name Globis.
Two years ago, Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda was in Davos. Last year, it was Prime Minister Taro Aso. This year, unfortunately, Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama will not attend. That’s why each individual participant should willingly attend the World Economic Forum as a representative of Japan.
January 26, 2010
From a hotel in the suburbs of Frankfurt,