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17 Takeaways from the World Economic Forum’s ACM 2015

As similar as all “millennials” are — young, motivated, and entrepreneurial-minded (for the most part) — we are each incredibly diverse. Imagine putting together 450 millennials, each representing a different city, and hailing from 160 different countries…Just think of the richness of the conversations! Imagine the exchange of valuable ideas, different perspectives learned and the stories we could hear about worlds and cultures we have only dreamed about. And, imagine these stories being told to us by someone who is so much like us that when we speak to them we feel as though we’re speaking to a long-lost friend. That’s what the World Economic Forum’s Global Shapers’ 2015 Annual Curator’s Meeting (ACM 2015) was like.

ACM 2015, which was held August 12–17, 2015 in Geneva, Switzerland and was hosted by the World Economic Forum (WEF), was a-once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The conference consisted of five days of international discussions, knowledge sharing from the WEF, leadership development, very lively (yet respectful) debates, bonding, cultural awareness and worldly perspectives told from personal experiences — all set to the backdrop of the Swiss Alps. I could go on and on about the overall experience — the rich Swiss chocolate and decadent cheeses, the beautiful scenery, the impressive WEF headquarters, or the the opportunity to learn from 449 other young leaders in a literal melting pot of motivated change makers — but instead of torturing you with the details, here are 17 key takeaways from the conference:

On Leadership

The WEF created Global Shapers, a young leadership organization composed of young profesionals between the ages of 20–30, as a way for “millenials” to self organize for impact and to have a seat at the table. Of course, in true WEF and Global Shapers fashion, many discussions centered around leadership — how to become a better leader and the true characteristics of a real leader. Here are only a few of the key takeaways about leadership. Some were received from observation and some were told to us by incredible people who have overcome unimaginable odds, like Mark Pollock:

  1. “He who knows the why to live can put up with the how. If we know our purpose, we can withstand almost anything to achieve it” — even blindness, physical handicaps, heartbreak or professional stresses.
  2. “Sometimes in life we don’t have the luxury of choosing our challenge. Sometimes, the challenge chooses us. What matters is what we decide to do when we are faced with the challenge.” If we stop and think about it, life really is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we react.
  3. Think about this formula for overcoming a challenge: “Start with being realistic, continue by being optimistic and finish by being a competitor.” Give it a serious try. I promise it will help 95% of the time.

On Technology

The Global Shapers community and the WEF are focused on the future of our world. Would we expect anything less from an organization that is “committed to improving the state of the world” and to shaping our world for the better? Here are a few fascinating takeaways about technology, most given by Professor Schwab himself:

  1. “Before, technology came like waves in an ocean. Today, technology comes like a tsunami.”
  2. “We are living in a completely interconnected world. We also live in a very destructive world where there is a changing power struggle.” This helps put things into perspective, especially as we seek out to shape the world.
  3. “We are living in a technology revolution. And in this, we are connected by a revolution that changes us.”
  4. “Cybersecurity is no longer an issue of if your website/company is going to get hacked, it’s an issue of when. The real question now is “how resilient is your company to an attack?”’
  5. “It’s no longer a question of if technology will touch all facets of our lives. It’s a question of ethics”. Meaning, what do we consider to be morally acceptable? And, how will we implement these ethics as our society creates technological advances?

About Change

The crux of the Global Shapers and the WEF’s initiatives are centered around change. Here are a few lessons learned regarding change:

  1. “All (disruptive) changes have an impact on human beings. And we are living in a constantly changing world” — an excellent reminder as we interact with others. Often, we do not know how people are reacting to changes. It’s important to be patient and seek first to understand.
  2. “Some people do not understand or accept change. If we do not accept change, we will become negative. And if we focus on the negative, we have already missed the opportunity.”
  3. “Be positive. In order to be positive we must define a strategy and a purpose for our lives.” — planning really is 75% of the work…
  4. “In order to shape (aka change) the world — or our world — we must love. Loving means accepting people as they are.” It’s really that easy. But, more difficult to execute…

On Society

As a truly global organization, there were many lessons on society. Here are a few choice enlightenments:

  1. “We have to think in global terms, but act locally” — true change comes from the local level. And, some of the most impactful change comes from changing ourselves first.
  2. “(As a society) we must build a new identity. Building a new identity means we accept and thrive under different diversities.” I can personally attest to the powerful impact that diversity — diversity in backgrounds, cultures and professions — has in shaping our personal and professional lives. Through diversity we learn patience, understanding and how to love and appreciate people and things that are different from us.
  3. “What the world needs now are bridge builders, shapers and teachers.”
  4. “We have (to take the responsibility) to shape our own personal identity, and in shaping this new identity we must remember that we have a personal responsibility to each other.”
  5. “The biggest danger of human kind is to lose the human connection.” Be in the moment. After all, it is rumored that Einstein once said (or alluded to) “I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction…”.

All in all, here were the five themes that resonated through the conference:

  • It is important to have a purpose and strategy.
  • It is important to have fun.
  • It is important to collaborate.
  • It is important to trust — the true cornerstone of any prosperous relationship.
  • Above all, it is important to love — this is the foundation to any human interaction or human advancement.

To apply for a local Global Shapers hub near you, go here.

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About investing in community-driven cos + supporting our underestimated founder/investor fam. GP @thecommunityvc Scout @lightspeedvp Frmly @backstage

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