Another year, another Davos. Last year’s World Economic Forum was overwhelmingly about Europe’s existential crisis. But Europe has quieted down, at least for now, and so we’re entering the first non-crisis Davos in years. But that doesn’t mean things have settled into, as Mohamed El-Erian puts it, a ‘new normal.’ It remains difficult to find markets with good risk/return, or an area of the world without serious geopolitical tensions.
Faced with this ‘new abnormal,’ where the only certainty is that shocks will arise from unexpected places, what is this year’s Davos about?
Everything and nothing. The United States, the Middle East, emerging markets, Japan – all of these are on the agenda, but they’re not all necessarily connected. The emissaries at Davos are in the midst of their own locavore movement – their agendas are remarkably domestic.
Faced with this, the World Economic Forum has made its 2013 theme “resilient dynamism.” According to the WEF, in the wake of turmoil, successful organizations “demonstrate strategic agility” and “possess risk resilience,” prepared for whatever new risks might emerge. The idea is that when there’s too much uncertainty in the world, too much volatility, too much new, you should be sure you can adapt quickly to the unknown. At least, this is what good institutions – be they companies, countries, etc. – should strive for.
This idea of “resilient dynamism” is strikingly similar to Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s concept of “antifragility,” which I wrote about last week. As emerging markets lead us into the future, they’re leaving questions in their wake about just how antifragile, or resiliently dynamic, they are. How flexible and assertive can developing countries be when many of them are saddled with paranoid, foundering, or challenged regimes?