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Decoding the “Signals” from Davos

January 27, 2013 by Rich Lesser
January 27, 2013

As I head to Africa after the World Economic Forum in Davos, like most participants I am trying to distill the core insights from the past week. Clearly, the tone of the meeting was more optimistic than last year, with spirits buoyed by the recent upward momentum of China and the U.S. and signs that the Eurozone has stepped back from the brink of collapse. But gauging the mood is one thing. Making sense of the cacophony of issues, challenges, and opportunities is another.

In trying to interpret this, I am reminded of a great book I read over the holidays—The Signal and the Noise, by statistician and blogger extraordinaire, Nate Silver. Nate shows just how challenging it is to separate true signals from all the noise when trying to predict the future. He is particularly hard on economists and the prognosticators who gain more from being blunt than right.

In that context, I won't even try to say what 2013 will bring. But I do believe there are strong underlying signals of fundamental changes that will shape the future over the next decade and beyond. These changes will force business leaders to reassess how and where they steer their organizations, while posing some enormous challenges for public-sector leaders.