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The Great Reset – It depends on you

In 1665 Cambridge University closed for a year in response to an outbreak of the plague. The 22-year-old Isaac Newton returned home to Lincolnshire where, released from his daily routines, he had time to imagine and propose the inverse square law of gravitation.

Covid-19: The Great Reset by Klaus Schwab and Thierry Malleret (published early July) hints that our own 21st-century lockdown could provoke similarly dramatic changes in how we perceive our lives. The book will set the agenda for the next World Economic Forum meeting in Davos from 26th January 2021 and will thereby shape many corporate responses to our changed world economy. Quite apart from the entertaining anecdotes about Isaac Newton, Shakespeare and others, the arguments for a reset (and not a restart) are set out on a global canvas. Although that global canvas can at times seem too large for the national or regional evidence offered, the book is nevertheless an ambitious declaration of what a reset should include.  

A key forecast is that neo-liberalism is over: ‘Irrespective of the details, the role of the state will increase and, in doing so, will materially affect the way business is conducted’. We are to expect trade to move from a globalised framework toward a few large cooperating regions.

But before you delve into the details of which industries are expected to be most changed by which new policies and trends, I would recommend that you first turn to p.211 and the section entitled Individual Reset. This section describes our modern way of life and the trend toward mental ill health caused by unsustainable choices, a trend that has been exacerbated by confinement. The links between a fear of dying from Covid-19, selfish responses leading to shame and then tribalism are laid bare. To combat this negative trend, the benefits of a daily dose of nature for all are extolled, as is a new social contract for a more satisfying and less fragmented existence. If hundreds of millions of people have genuinely been so affected by our 2020 confinement and are seeking real change, then many new business opportunities will have been created. If you subsequently return to the start of the book, ask yourself, does it adequately imagine what these opportunities might be?  

Reading Covid-19: The Great Reset reminded me of why I invest time in the work of the World Economic Forum. I have spent most of my working life in search of opportunities to work with those who want to imagine and create change for a more sustainable world.  Some of my most memorable moments have been conjured up in the company of such people. It is only possible to come together and produce these creative moments if we have a shared vision. This is what Klaus Schwab and Thierry Malleret’s ambitious book offers us by asking, which way do we each want to go now?  Do we reset or merely restart?  

As for Sir Isaac Newton in lockdown, his daily dose of interaction with nature worked wonders for him – and for us. But if (like me) you are left feeling inadequate in comparison, let’s privately acknowledge that his creativity benefitted by being spared the distraction of daily Zoom calls.

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