For the first time since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, global leaders gathered in person for the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Among them were McKinsey senior partners Cindy Levy and Sven Smit, who, during a McKinsey Live event, shared their perspectives on the conversations that dominated the week in the Alps.
Two primary aspects of the conference were at the fore:
- The myriad challenges facing the world today: the first global supply shock since 1978—affecting food, materials, and all types of energy—plus the effects of the war in Ukraine, immigration, global inflation, and the cryptocurrency market
- The emergence of a new cadre of leaders who, having worked together through the disruptions of the pandemic, have greater trust in one another and a bigger appetite for collaboration
Overall, the event clarified the nature of the complex puzzle that executives, politicians, academics, and policy makers are trying to solve. In addition, a new realism was evident, as attendees acknowledged the imminent volatility and sought concrete short- and long-term solutions.
For example, in the past, leaders set energy targets without truly understanding how the global energy system works. This year, they deepened their knowledge and focused on solving real issues, including the inevitable trade-offs required to reach those targets. Country and company leaders remained determined to uphold decarbonization commitments even as they grapple with shorter-term issues.
Similarly, attendees went beyond well-meaning pledges to examine the nuts and bolts of the global financial system, including how capital can be deployed to provide incentives for decarbonization. They also expanded their understanding of the first-, second-, and third-order effects of inflation and the vital importance of resilience for corporations and economies.
The world remains highly interconnected, and the global leaders in Davos seemed determined to collaborate in putting together the many pieces of the global puzzle.