At the World Knowlegde Forum in Seoul today, Tony Blair was the first speaker in a series of existing and former political leaders talking about current global challenges. The former Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland was invited as main speaker and he convinced in his capacity to set the tone for the three day knowledge conference as well as entertaining in his own style. Here are my major take-aways from his talk with the Forum’s Founding CEO Chang Dae-whan.
Question: How do we educate this and the next generation to see this world with open eyes, accepting diversity as a positive issue?
TB: The big answer is to obtain connectivity and manage this through education. In the past years we see connectivity between countries significantly rising, the best example is the way how China connects and interacts with its neighbours here in Asia.
Question: How can we identify and foster capable and compassionate politicians and how do we educate these politicians that usually lack political experience?
TB: The single biggest challenge for people in power is how you get things done. Most politicians need to be turning from a communicator as an early politician to change to be a great executive when elected.
Question: Today’s main driver in government are reforms. What strategies are needed to produce successful reforms and how do we speed up these reforms?
TB: for him, the big global problems are:
– lack of leadership in politics
– the Intensification of national thinking
Governments try to do too many things. It is really these three things that need to be in place when reforms are done right:
1. What do you want to prioritise – choose your key priorities.
2. Policy development which helps to get the right answer.
3. Performance management, but you need to make sure to bring in outsiders to get the best in and learn from them.
Question: what do you make of the boom of the Sharing Economy with the rise of Airbnb (1.5m rooms rented out everywhere) or UBER?
TB: it is fascinating, initially I didn’t think it would work. I am of a generation that is a little uncomfortable with technology but fact is that the digitalisation will change the world. If I would be the political leader today I would spend a lot of time thinking into what technology can do for my country. Imagine all these sectors such as healthcare or the services sectors up to the way how governments function, such a big opportunity!
However let us not forget: in the end these technologies are driven by people. This is the right time for governments to provide guidance for a lot of change, so governments have a need to help people to drive this change. Our current Zeitgeist or task/opportunity will be to help drive this digitalisation.
Great introductory talk by Tony Blair here in Seoul, I took away a lot from it. However the choice of the talks I will attend before being on stage myself on Thursday will be less on the political but more on the digital side. My next forum will therefore be the talk of Nathan Blecharczyk, Co-Founder and CTO of Airbnb, one of the outstanding examples of digital disruption today and for me one of the highlights of the forum today.