In 2000 I was a delegate at the World Economic Forum South East Asian Summit. We were virtual prisoners to 10,000 mostly very young people who were rioting outside the conference venue, the Crown Casino in Melbourne. We couldn’t leave and key speakers were flown in by helicopter or boated in on police launches. We were patrolled 24hours a day by goons with guns.
I realised then that if success and affluence leads to massive alienation it is no fun for anyone. Who wants to live life under guard because their success has so offended others? Richard Wilkinson in his book “The Impact of Inequality: How to Make Sick Societies Healthier” tells us that homicide rates (and other crimes) track a country’s level of inequality, not its overall wealth. The fairest countries have the highest levels of trust and social capital. When you have high social capital everybody is happier, healthier and safer.
This week Oxfam told us that the richest 62 people on the planet own more than the poorest 50%. This kind of inequality will only lead to misery, social disruption and heart break – even for the very rich.
Before I left for the Melbourne summit both my children (students at the time) wanted to fly down and be part of the demonstration. They wanted to let the fat cats (like me) know that the social dislocation caused by globalisation wasn’t good enough.
I was raised with the quote “Thank god for young men with brains enough to make fools of themselves”. My children’s intelligence demanded that they think and care outside the conservative box. My son went on to become one of Australia’s top designers and my daughter after a career in not-for-profit sector married a raising entrepreneurial fintech star. It is healthy for young people to rebel. It is healthy to think past our own circumstances to those less privileged than ourselves. It is wonderful when the voices of the less advantaged are heard. Dialgoue breeds the kind of creativity demands by the digital revolution.
When faced with a riot at Davos President Bill Clinton went out and spoke with the crowds. Dialogue is great. Dialogue allows us to hear the humanity of another. When we can relate on a human level we have a chance of walking a mile in the other person’s shoes.
Leading entrepreneurs like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett have been able to feel sufficient compassion to give away vast amounts of their fortune. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if a World Economic Forum was about the rich and the poor, the privileged and the disadvantages dialoguing as humans and finding ways to bridge the gap so that we can all live in health, joy and safety?
Less grandly, we can dialogue across levels in organisations, across age groups and professional specialities. In fact, with the rise of “wicked problems” – highly complex rapidly changing problems sparked by globalisation and digitisation – we can only move forward through dialogue with people who see the world very differently from ourselves.
Social media means we can longer isolate ourselves and feel safe. People power is rising. We need to work together across all divides to find solutions to presenting issues. Then we will all be better off.
12 Steps for Business www.12stepsforbusiness.com.au is a structured programme that takes everybody on a journey to creating wealth and success for all. In it you will learn how to recognise and work constructively with “wicked problems” and transform them into amazing win-win-win opportunities through thinking at higher levels and creating environments in which dialogue can flourish.