An air of openness in Davos

Marketplace Staff Jan 28, 2010

An air of openness in Davos

Marketplace Staff Jan 28, 2010


Kai Ryssdal: On the line with us now from Davos is Dan Shapiro. Hi Dan, how are you?

DAN SHAPIRO: Good, how are you doing, Kai?

Ryssdal: I’m all right. Listen, it seems like Davos is something that is right up your alley. I mean, you’re a guy who does international negotiation and conflict resolution. Are you in your sweet spot?

SHAPIRO: I’m definitely in my sweet spot. This is sort of a tornado of sweet spots. There are so many international leaders here, business leaders, literally every person you bump into is someone who you want to talk to about something to hear their perspective, to offer suggestion on how they might do things differently. It’s a pretty incredible experience.

Ryssdal: Do you get a chance to do a lot of work with CEOs and have them do some conflict resolution?

SHAPIRO: I think this is where a lot of the most important work actually gets done. It’s the opportunity to sit down over dinner and sit next to a CEO of one of these major companies, a global leader, and say, look what’s your perspective on this, how have you been dealing with the situation, what’s going on behind the scenes that you can’t quite talk with people about in front of the media? And let’s think about this together using negotiation frameworks.

Ryssdal: How often does that work out well for you, though? I mean, how often do they say, gee, Dan, that’s a great point?

SHAPIRO: I am constantly surprised at the level of receptivity to these ideas. It’s quite anxiety provoking knowing that you are talking with people who have such great influence on many of the structures of our world, and yet, they are very open. There’s something about the Davos air that sort of washes away the status, and everybody, to some extent, is seen as an equal.

Ryssdal: Well, on that topic, though, the theme of this year’s conference is “Rethink, Redesign, and Rebuilding the Global Economy.” If you could pick one thing that you wanted people at Davos to understand about that, given your background, what would it be?

SHAPIRO: Don’t forget the human being. I think it’s too easy to have, especially when you have all of these world leaders, key decision makers from organizations. You can start seeing the world as just a top level world, forgetting that there is a huge grassroots community. Your constituents are your most important voice, don’t forget to listen to that voice.

Ryssdal: What’s the worst part about Davos?

SHAPIRO: Well, the cold is not very nice here. Honestly the worst part for me is the lack of sleep. There is just constant buzz here from 7 a.m. until 4 o’clock in the morning. There’s just so much activity. You bump into Warren Buffett one minute, the next minute I’m standing in line with the head of state from Latvia, then talking with an international artist. It’s just mind blowing the diversity of perspectives that are here, as well as the accomplishment of those who have these perspectives.

Ryssdal: But you can deal with the lack of sleep, right, because you’re young and you can handle it?

SHAPIRO: I have a two-year-old and a four-year-old at home, but even with that practice, I’m still not very good at it.

Ryssdal: Dan Shapiro. He’s a young global leader at the Davos forum this year. He’s also the founder and director of the Harvard International Negotiation Program. We talked to him in Davos. Dan, thanks a lot.

SHAPIRO: Thank you so much, Kai.

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