A place to convene. A place to discuss. A place for ideas.

Innovation and Startup Thinking at Davos

By Ideas Lab Staff January 25, 2013

As politicians and global leaders gathered at the Swiss town to promote education and opportunity, experts offered strategic economic advice.

The main talk centered on a wobbly European Union and resilience through adversity at Davos this year, while on the sidelines, top economists and executives offered their ideas for businesses to break through.

For some the thinking was clear: think like a startup.

Josh Lerner from the Harvard Business School said that the two biggest engines of innovation were in corporate research and venture capital startups _ currently both underperforming. In an interview with Hubculture, he pronounced hybrids of those two models to be “extremely promising”.

Smaller was better and “maturing of the culture” with the advent of multibrand companies according to Forbes President and CEO Mike Perlis, who talked about organizations sharing entrepreneurs and experience across different platforms.

90 percent of the jobs will be created by small business, said SAP Chief Executive Officer Bill McDermott, naming technology as the main topic of the forum this year. “The only way to grow is to innovate, and technology is at the forefront,” he told Hubculture.

Jonas Prising, CEO of Manpower Group, said that companies are “constantly looking at ways to be more flexible to adapt” to the uncertain economic environment.

Demographics in the developed world, an aging workforce and using technology in a different way has created the dichotomy of high unemployment – particularly youth unemployment – even as companies around the world complain of not being able to find talent.

“Job security is less and less important,” Prising says, emphasizing a constantly evolving skillset that is easily transferable, as more important in today’s environment.

For others, the path to innovation was through investment. Top Chinese economist Li Daokui said there was a “quiet revolution going on in the Chinese economy” on GDP growth and structural change. He anticipates increased investment in infrastructure as opposed to the spending that went into the production sector during the pre-financial crisis period five years ago.

China should do the opposite of what other countries are doing, he suggests: incur public debt, divest and use that money to balance the budget. “We need to enable people to be courageous to participate,” he said.