The theme of the WEF’s 2015 Annual Meeting is ‘The New Global Context’, which is really all about the political, economic, social and technological transformations that are changing the world. How relevant is this to the business world?
Dennis: Extremely relevant. We've been working with clients to understand the significant changes that are disrupting their organisations -- and the economy as a whole. Five global megatrends are making a huge impact: rapid urbanisation, major demographic change, resource scarcity/climate change, the shift in global economic power and technological breakthroughs.
We see the megatrends creating huge opportunities for forward-looking organisations. For example, demographic change is an opportunity for companies to tap into the innovative potential of a more diverse workforce. But the megatrends present major challenges as well. Economic shifts among countries are driving momentous change in consumption patterns – forcing businesses worldwide to adapt their strategies accordingly.
What's your lasting impression from Davos last year?
Dennis: Growing concern about the lack of trust in business was cited in last year’s CEO Survey and generated considerable discussion in a number of WEF panels and subsequent meetings with CEOs. As CEOs face changing values and expectations in a rapidly evolving business environment, building trust is a topic that’s continued to resonate in my conversations with company leaders -- and I expect it will be a focus again this year in Davos.
Businesses with a high degree of trust – and a clearly stated purpose -- will survive crises much more effectively than those with low degrees of trust. By purpose we mean what the business stands for, why it exists. This helps management understand the trade-offs between different strategies and make the best decisions for all its stakeholders. It causes firms to focus on factors connected to their mandate, something increasingly in question today.
Every year, PwC launches its Annual Global CEO Survey in Davos. What issues is the survey going to cover this year?
Dennis: In last year’s survey, we looked at how CEOs were capitalising on the megatrends to be fit for the future. The 18th Annual Global CEO Survey builds on the theme of the future of the enterprise, looking at how CEOs are redefining competition in a marketplace without boundaries. We’ll be focusing on how CEOs are searching for new ways to apply their organisations’ capabilities -- harnessing the power of digital technology to make these changes and deploying diversity in their search for new competitive approaches.