Farah Nanji 0:07
Hello, and welcome to this special episode of mission makers brought to you from Davos, Switzerland, where I was lucky enough to be moderating a week of panels in the mountains at the land space Summit, which took place during the World Economic Forum earlier this year. It was a huge project and I spent close to a year curating the programme for the summit, which was a gathering to collaborate on the most pressing issues of our current and future generations, converging the frontiers of technology and humanity to showcase the cultural essence of life in an immersive, elevated experience. We have some incredible speakers at our summit from Deepak Chopra, to the first African women to pilot a spacecraft, Dr. Sian Proctor, and many other visionaries and thought leaders. I'll be sharing a few highlights from our panel discussions over the next few weeks. So stay tuned. And let's dive straight into today's episode. cultural leadership in times of crisis, today's theme is all about creativity and the spiritual codes of success. And I'm lucky to be joined by three incredible leaders who are really operating in that space and spearheading change. And today's discussion is really about cultural leadership in times of crisis. Obviously, we've all been through the last few years and the way that leadership has been catapulted to the forefront in terms of how it's bound together, the teams, the families, or the different people that we sort of surround ourselves with. So if leadership is the is weak, then of course, everything is going to disintegrate around it. So very important for us to have this discussion around cultural leadership. What does it mean? How does it influence your cells, but also the teams around you? How do you empower other people? And so to my right, I have Alessa Berg from Top Tier Impact, Samira Khan from Microsoft and Dr. Royston Flude from CSPOC, it'd be amazing if you could all introduce yourselves and tell us what you're doing. Starting with Alessa.
Alessa Berg 2:02
Alright, we'll go ahead. So my name is Alessa Berg, I run a company called Top Tier Impact. And today and overall a diverse we have many TTI members and ambassadors here in the audience as well. So Top Tier Impact is a global ecosystem focused on impact investing and sustainability. Our mission is really to accelerate the adoption of impact as a paradigm of investing, running companies, and frankly, just showing up as people right showing up with certain values at the core of how we transact and how we create value. So we have a global network, we have an investment focus unit, and a consulting business as well. In the climate space, we'll get to more later.
Samira Khan 2:45
My name is Samira Khan and I was most recently a part of the AI and sustainability market development team with Microsoft - soon to be switching roles prior to that was at Salesforce working on social impact, both internally as well as on the product side and externally as well.
Dr. Royston Flude 3:05
Okay. Yes, I'm the president and CSPOC, which is a United Nations accredited NGO, out of Geneva, we focus on developing self sustaining solutions. And we find that by linking health, education, and enterprise together by celebrating diversity and inclusion, we can achieve things that other change programmes don't. We had a conference on Monday at the United Nations in Geneva, which is focused on women, inspiring a peaceful and sustainable future. And there were more than 200 Women in community of women, mostly, but a few men. And we had a delegation from the Ukraine as well. So I believe that it's actually women who actually are critical in these times of change. And it's also a time when we can all learn. So I said, Well, I've got I'm here to listen. And that's probably the same today.
Farah Nanji 4:07
Well, you're surrounded by two amazing women, with a divine feminine energy. And, you know, it's important for us, I think, to strip it back to the beginning. Let's go back to the core, the foundation, what does leadership mean to each one of you? And how does your culture influence your personal leadership style? So Royston that's the other way around?
Dr. Royston Flude 4:25
Well, I'm I was born in London in guys hospital, and then I've lived all over the world. So I'm not just a one culture person. I, I believe in celebrating all cultures, I believe you have an opportunity to understand how people have got to where they are. And every culture has a sort of like a Zeitgeist. I think for me, it's the discovery is that is cooperation that is key. It's actually celebrating people. I believe also in Jack Ma’s philosophy is trying to get people that are more intelligent than you. I'm a dyslexic PolyMath. So I have one or two ups and downs in life. In Switzerland, I usually have a few challenges with the administration forms. But we're trying to develop a sense of humour between us. So leadership, for me is about inspiring people, rather than telling them it's about emotional and spiritual intelligence rather than mental, physical. And it's about allowing people to be their best. It's a lot about celebrating competence, rather than trying to recognise incompetence. And I find that humour is an incredibly important lubricant of life. We have this I get many humorous situations, as you can imagine. But if you can have humour, it diffuses negativity, it creates an opportunity for people to be together and work together.
Farah Nanji 5:52
No, I completely agree. I also come from a background in motorsports, as many of you may know. And when we look at a team, like Mercedes, one of the reasons they've been so successful is the no blame culture. Because once you start pointing those fingers and alienating people and making them feel inferior, you can't really support and nurture that innovation and that unity and that bond in the team goes, everybody has to be accountable. But doing it like that is perhaps not the right choice and fun is that if you join the fun, Sameera, how about yourself and tell us what leadership means to you, and how your culture influences your personal leadership style.
Samira Khan 6:25
Yeah, with time I'm realising that leadership to me is very much about decision making from the soul. And people generally think of that in a very fluffy way. But I think it's both intellectual, as well as spiritual. And intellectually, I think you're drawing from your own culture, you're drawing from wisdom that's been passed through the generations that's ingrained in you, since you were a child, you're drawing from all the sensory influences around you. So it is very much also intellectual as much as it is based on your, your intuition. As far as you know, my culture, my first question I had to ask myself is what is my culture. So, you know, I am American in the sense that I was born there. So I think having grown up in America with the history of the country, there's a very pioneering side of me. Now, our education system tries to encourage creativity, individualism, entrepreneurialism, yet, at the same time, I have parents who were from South Asia, so Indian and Pakistani, and when they moved to this country, whatever their culture may have been back then it was really about fitting in. And kind of this notion, you should stay quiet until you know what you're doing and you can be accepted. So there was that aspect of of my culture as well. And I think how it's come together is in this quiet, pioneering spirit. So I hope to make change and innovate, but I do so in a quiet manner, where I observe more first, try to figure out how I need to more while retaining my values to influence those around me. And it's just how I'm how I'm comfortable operating. I will say a final aspect of the culture is just being global. So I've lived in the US, I've lived in Southeast Asia, UAE, etc. And I really like to understand and break down cultures and kind of leverage the most sort of beautiful and unique things I find in those cultures to advance shared goals that we may have. So those are some of the ways that my culture has influenced me, I'll leave on the sort of last note that there is an intersectionality between gender and culture, just being a woman in these different cultures and has meant different things. But I'll pass the mic for now.
Farah Nanji 8:58
We'll have to touch up more on that later.
Alessa Berg 9:01
Beautiful. Thank you. So I will start with the part about the culture and how that influences, not just leadership style, but also how we live how we operate. So from my sides, I'm a Swiss Brazilian, and I grew up in the Italian part of Switzerland, this beautiful country you're in today. And so when you go to Italy, you're Swiss. And when you go to the outer parts of Switzerland, you're Italian, right? And so holding this dichotomy, both in terms of like where I was, but then also my identity in terms of like different cultures has been something that has followed me from the very, very beginning, and has always I guess, until I realised it, because I think for a long time, it was a bit unaware and at times isolating, right of like, understanding but where do I belong? Where do I not belong? And I think that integrating it in how I live life and how I look at life, it becomes something about being a global citizen, but most importantly, it's something About having compassion and understanding for all different flavours of the human experience for all different flavours of culture, right, and being able to relate to all of those, because ultimately, you know, we are living life in this subjective way. And the more we can understand our subjective experience and what other people are having a subjective experience, the more we can actually relate to each other and understand each other and have a good time and create and build, right. So for me, it's really about this kind of, in like, insider outsider perspective, having given me so much understanding of how others can completely differently relate to life, right. And I keep on bringing it into my leadership tasks down in terms of like, trying to truly understand and build bridges, and, you know, remove conflicts and again, have compassion. And so, getting to leadership, I really want to unpack leadership for a second, because I think that our culture has, ironically, our culture, like the general global culture, has put leadership on a pedestal right, our leaders, leaders, leaders, and sometimes when I really reflect more deeply about this, I get confused, because ultimately, to me, leadership is about serving, and leadership is our responsibility. Leadership isn't something glamorous like to, you know, like, put them in if there's nothing wrong with that. But I really believe that leadership, when fully owned and understood, is their responsibility and is a commitment of showing up in a certain way, and showing up to serve everybody who works with you, and who benefits or interacts with what you're creating in the world. And so, I think that this relates also to, you know, when you trace back, like leadership, and like, for centuries, like being a king, being a queen, ultimately is about serving the community, right, and building value for everybody. So the way that I relate to leadership ultimately, is that taking that responsibility to show up in a way that can add value and, you know, add purpose to the people that I work with, and then to the people that we impact positively around us.
Farah Nanji 12:12
Very well said, I completely agree. And, you know, whether we lead teams, we also lead our own lives at home. And in some shape or form, we are leaders, you know, we are responsible for the health or the nurturing of our parents or our children, our grandparents. And as you said, it's a it's a sort of servant mindset. And it doesn't just relate to just the business card and a title that you have. So in the times that we're living, of course, you know, we're here in the mountains. And it's been two years since, you know, we've been able to reconvene in this way. And a lot has changed natural, naturally, actually unnaturally. And so I think we can all say that many feel like politics has failed us, and it's continuing to fail. Us. And so Samira, what are your sort of thoughts on this for other cultural institutions to step in and take guidance on that?
Samira Khan 13:09
Yeah, I mean, I think corporations have typically not been viewed as cultural institutions. However, given the clout, the power they have the capital, the resources they have, there's an onus and a responsibility upon corporations to take more of a role in playing stewards of culture, because they have such a great influence on our market, on how things are funded, you know, the caregiving economy in the US and how women perhaps are paid and compensated and given benefits. I mean, you name it, they have a lot of influence over policy, etc. And I don't view culture as disparate or separate from other disciplines. Rather, it's the foundation from which many disciplines emerge, or it should be at least the framework. So I think corporations as you know, cultural stewards, filling in the gap that governments have left almost serving as quasi government entities need to be held accountable by society in a particular way. And we need to try to help rewire what we value so that leaders feel the permission to lead with purpose, not just think of the bottom line, so that employees feel empowered to pursue their passion and contribute to society beyond sort of business value, etc. So I think it requires a sort of a reframing of value. And I think we're seeing some sort of leaders emerge, but it's been very tough for businesses to align around any other agenda, but but the bottom line, so unless markets change, I don't see that changing. But I think even more important than that are actually movements. So movements are not limited to corporations. They're not limited to governments. They're not limited startups. They're really about the individuals and people like you and me coming together in spaces like this and deciding that we have a shared goal, and we're going to drive a movement. And we're going to try to move startups move companies, move government leaders in a certain direction and deciding to take action based on our deeply held values and beliefs. So I think movements is you know, can be viewed as a cultural institution as well. And the underpinning is really like what changes hearts and minds and for me in my life, the arts have always been a way that I've been influenced to change. So if I see it in film, if I see it in written word, if I experienced it by travel, if it really moves me, then I moved to act and think differently, and it transcends that experience into the way I do work into the way I lead my personal life into the movements I join. So I think the more individuals can have these experiences that awaken them through the arts, or through whatever sort of gives them energy, I think, the more we'll be able to create an alternative to relying on politics as sort of a decision maker or a holder of our futures.
Farah Nanji 16:19
And how do you think that the accountability you touched upon as we enter in were discussing this earlier in the room, we enter web three and, you know, decentralisation? What is the role then of keeping those big companies that have sort of monopolise the space accountable? As we go into that decentralisation space?
Samira Khan 16:38
Yeah, so I think right now, we don't have the tools necessarily in place to, let's say, measure impact. We don't necessarily mean we have some tools, we don't have an economy that's built around right alternative value, I think in the absence of that, it really is coming from employees. Organising, there's activism is a part of it. It's not the only way. Investors were activist investors who are taking a stake in particular causes. And also, the more that we are creating this bridge between emerging markets and other markets to drive innovation across borders, so that we're sharing narratives, we're sharing stories. So the impact is more visible through the media, it's more visible through voices, corporations are forced in some way their hand is forced to act. So I think Roe versus Wade has been really interesting to me as an American, because it is not something I ever would expect a company to weigh in on just given being older. And what I've seen of corporations, they tend to avoid touchy sort of sensitive issues that go across religious lines that go across politics, because it's very risky. But now I think what companies are realising is that if they take an impact driven lens, the risk is higher in some cases of staying silent, especially if it's an impact that's going to affect their industry in a certain way.
Farah Nanji 18:09
Do either of you have anything more to add to what she said? Or any thoughts?
Alessa Berg 18:13
Yeah, so thinking about technology and zooming into web three, or like thinking about how we can actually support these, these drive like towards, you know, not just reflecting cultures in different cultures into it, but innovating and creating more value than it was ever possible before. I think that you know, technology is neutral. It's all about the intentions of the people who use the technology. And in my view, this goes for all technologies, they can enable utopia or dystopia, it's our choice. And it's about what we put into it, and how we leverage it. And so we've talked about web three a lot. Here at Davos, there are a lot of houses that are covering different companies in the web three space or other protocols. And in my view, I can see a world where the decentralisation and the enablement of communities to be organised through this technology actually reflects infinite diversity reflects more different cultures than ever before, right, because it's not been possible until today with our technology like distributed protocols, to be so easily enabled as citizens as individuals as communities, to sell for organise not just in a way of like, oh, you know, we're going around our community, but frankly, to produce value, right to create an economy around the interactions that you have to vote to, you know, have your own currency, right. And so, we are in a place where this technology can enable us to have this extreme diversity all around the world. So a bottom up approach to not just saying, Oh, this is the perfect top down culture and everybody like should reflect this. I don't believe in that. I think that diversity is beautiful and as much as possible, we should integrate it Write so that we can interact in a way that is more fun, more enjoyable and creates more value than ever before. And so this technology can actually allow us to do that, for example decentralised autonomous organisations, right. If we see Dows taking over and actually like being as easy to set up as possible all around the world for common people, then that is going to reflect more diversity, right? And that is naturally going to come together into a society that can operate with more diversity. And so I could go on for other technologies, right, and talk about the good and the bad. So I think it's important that we reflect about both sides and then choose the lenses and the ways that we want to use technology.
Farah Nanji 20:42
Absolutely. It's the it's the sort of challenge and a way of keeping that culture and that innovation and the traditions that come with that. But in the exciting space of capture that innovate innovatively. versus, let's talk about the sweet, sweet, sorry. And when we've I guess all companies now really have to bake in that culture of resiliency, just given what we've been through in the last few years. So what's your sort of guidance to those leaders, you know, to really lead that ship and build that culture, from the get go of resiliency so that they can flow and with effortless ease through crisis,
Dr. Royston Flude 21:22
I think the interesting thing is that we're now in a world, which is unpredictable. We are seeing natural and complex disasters, we're seeing many things that we wouldn't have envisaged before. And therefore conventional rule based management can't really work. We're also seeing the impetus from the pension funds, who actually own the companies saying, Well, what about social impact? How are you treating the people? I'm reminded of France Telecom that did a downsizing when people committed suicide. Under international law, the directors were put in jail. So we're now in an era of accountability, where we have to try and engage the whole culture, we have to engage agility. And I believe that its utility comes not from process and task. It comes from emotional and spiritual intelligence. And I think that's the Rome, what has always been the power of women in an organisation. And I think we need to engage women in a different way. I think there needs to be, we all know about the glass ceiling, which I think is disappearing gradually, it depends upon the culture and where you are in the world. I think we then talk about the sticky floor, where women not believing that they can do it. But I think when you find women empowered in organisations, you get this agility, you get the ability to be able to be more resilient. And I think if you get people solving the problems at the grassroots, rather than pushing the problem upstairs, if you get people being prepared to work together with the notion of loving kindness, which I think is actually the weapon of mass destruction that we have of our age. So this notion of just being kind, I'm reminded of a manager in, I won't name the company, who was told that this female manager was told she was too soft. And she should beat the people up north. Now, this is a culture that we have to completely let go of, we have to recognise that if you inspire people you create this magic is creating the picture together. And yes, you do need a frame around the picture to provide some bath boundaries. But let's make beautiful pictures together. And we hopefully will create a better planet. And as I say, the shareholders are now saying, This is what we want. So, I mean, if you take the pension funds, they have to find a home of $30 trillion a year.
Farah Nanji 23:59
Talking about letting go I'd love to hear from each of you about you know, traditional cultural institutions like the education system that are, you know, 100 years old and haven't evolved with the times suddenly found themselves obviously in this incredibly difficult situation. And almost outdated in a world that's changing so quickly, more and more people choosing not to go to university, and, you know, pursue passions in a different way. So what are your beliefs on how that sort of cultural system can adapt, can grow and can keep up with the new challenges and opportunities that we are in?
Dr. Royston Flude 24:35
The biggest challenge of the education system is mindsets. We in the primary education often destroy the curiosity of children, just so they can put in a tick in the box in terms of exams. We have to find a different way of experimenting with life and lifelong learning is certainly doesn't stop when you have you've got a degree or any sort of qualification. You need to keep on going And I think we there's a criterion of bringing the mother, the grandmothers back into the educational and the grandmother's actually in business. So that if they are, if you have young women leaders who hit this barrier, for one reason or another, and I think working from home give us more flexibility now. But you need the scrum, mothering input of experience business leaders who go back and help the people in the lower rungs. And I think that's the way we're going to find a better world. So education is lifelong learning. Education is always accepting that you don't know anything, and believing that you can learn more. And it's the courage and the humility to do that. So try and break the mindsets, try and discover the beauty of life, and learn in different ways.
Samira Khan 25:55
So definitely agree with you on learning different ways. And I think what's really enabled that is in this sort of creation, this innovation has been technology, because it's allowing individuals to organise and create new communities, which is, which was mentioned earlier to deploy assets differently to learn about different sort of cultures and geographies more easily. And as a result of that, I think people are less reliant on traditional institutions, they can get their education and their skilling from different places, get certified and accredited, I still don't think it's as easy for some of these sort of self made learners to get the same sort of recognition. But I think that will change over time. I will say that despite that, though, I do see a role for what's quote, traditional cultural institutions to play depending on, you know, the market you're in or the country you're in, I know in countries that are rife with economic disparity, corruption, etc, people are still turning to cultural institutions, such as religious institutions as a place of hope, because it gives them something to believe in. And if they don't have access to a community or technology in the way some other countries do, if they don't have access to a system that reflects and supports them, they're going to rely on other places to support them. And I'm a spiritual person. So I think there's a place for cultural institutions such as religion, still, I think it's not for everyone, but it still has this space in terms of keeping us connected to ethereal sort of concepts and history that we've built over time. So I don't see them entirely going away, I just see almost some forms of action being swapped out, depending on you know, where you believe what you believe in, where you live? And what speaks to you.
Alessa Berg 27:56
To me, it goes back to diversity, again, how is it that we live in the 21st century, and our systems, our education systems are all about people doing the exact same thing and coming out as cookie cutters with the same skills with like, the same standards, right? I really believe that every person comes to this world with unique skills, unique talents to contribute to the whole, and we haven't yet reflected into our education system, how to best support that, because the reality is that the education system right now works better for some people rather than others. Like it doesn't mean that just because you excel, or don't like you're better or worse, right? It's just that the system is going in a certain direction, right? And some people get left behind or left wondering like, where do I fit into the picture. And so I believe that leveraging technologies, going back to leveraging technologies for good, leveraging technologies, and being able to actually use them with personalization, with tutoring with various ways in which we can enable every individual to be an individual and to develop their unique skills. I think that's the future. And I see a future in which in our world, everybody is actually aligned with their natural purpose and their passions, like how is it that we don't live in that word yet? I think ultimately, to be able to leverage technology to put us in that place is going to be the most efficient thing for our economy, right? Because this is about efficiency, ultimately, like it's not just like doing good or, you know, just being fair, it's actually about efficiency as well, an economy where everybody can contribute to the best of their unique abilities, to the whole is the most efficient one. And so, I hope and you know, I'm definitely behind supporting from an impact investment perspective in the education side of things, our world in which everybody can show up to the best of their potential no matter what their potential and talents are.
Farah Nanji 29:56
Definitely, I completely agree and you know, the moon And that education system is fear based. And that then goes all the way on until you get to university, then you get a job. And then it's, it's, you know, a very competitive cutthroat dog eat dog world as they say, right. And that's what creates this insecurity, this aggression, this fear. And instead, like what you were saying of when you're so young, and you're coming into this world, bright eyed, taking it all in and you're curious, and some people lose that spark, because age three, age five, if you don't pass the entrance exam, you're not going to that school and you're, you know, the rest of your life is, is going to be determined by that action point. So I think it's really important that we can somehow revolutionise that system. And I think we're at hopefully at that intersection of doing some of that summary, you touched upon, you know, the sort of South Asian culture and, you know, different parts of the world. I mean, how do you think they will fare with this changing landscape where it is much harder to change that mindset, and get away from that very conservative sort of mindset?
Samira Khan 31:11
Yeah, I think technology does have a role to play because it gives you exposure to, you know, narratives from other cultures, different ways of thinking, access to education, unlike ever before. I do think the movement toward sort of interdisciplinary individuals and being able to market their skills to other countries sitting in their home country is a piece of it, like, for example, I have been mentoring young women in Pakistan, and I have been completely blown away by their drive to code and become proficient in STEM, and to participate in international forums with the idea that they will get a job in tech. And that's pretty amazing that technology has served as an industrial sort of an industry or a platform for them to really think differently, to make decisions differently, and to get their families behind it. Because it's, it represents respect, it represents sort of creativity in a unique way. So I think the more we can allow that type of access to those countries, the more we'll see, you know, female
leaders coming out of the countries who will then serve as changemakers, and who will really kind of bring others along. So I would say it's a combination of technology and just change making and supporting and finding those individuals, I think if you can somehow find these passionate individuals, were driving change at a micro community level, and support them with the first check, support them with social capital. I think that would do wonders. And I think there are people who are thinking about this,
Farah Nanji 32:54
what about the historical sort of tech, you know, the people that get left behind because they don't have access to that tech as that world is moving into that space? And how would you? What are your thoughts on making that, you know, as accessible as possible, and the challenges that will result culturally as a result, perhaps all of you could answer them?
Alessa Berg 33:14
I think, again, that's where impact investing can come in, from the perspective of how do we make these infrastructure cost efficient, accessible? And how do we, when you zoom back out, ultimately think about policy and think about the global picture of how countries are supported or enabled, you know, especially if we're thinking about development, finance, so I talk to impact we interact with development, finance institutions, they have an impact mandate in the way they invest. So they really are about measuring impact, and they deploy a lot, and especially in these markets that we're going into, they become a major source of funding. And so thinking a little bit from a zoomed out macro perspective of like, what does it take to have this infrastructure available? What does it take to have subsidies? Like what does it take to design systems where this is accessible one way or the other, I can give you an example. So we've we've interacted through our investment unit, with a company based in India that has built this incredible network, that is private schools that are very affordable because in in the Indian education system, that is the prevalent you say, source of education for a rising like poor to middle class, actually. And so there's a lot of diversity in that ecosystem at this point in terms of different schools. And so these guys like are financing at scale, schools like that making sure that the education is an education for the educators is available, and the technology is available as well. So I think it's a combination of enabling the private sector to get to that, but also thinking about from Apple Public Agenda public policy perspective? How do we make sure that that equality is as present as possible?
Farah Nanji 35:07
Absolutely. Do you either have anything to add to that? Or do you think Alyssa summed it up beautifully? Great. So if we'd love to open up the floor for any questions to our panellists Oh, hello,
Unknown Speaker 35:22
hello. Yeah, I'm just interested to know, like, where the passion came from to, you know, initiate such a venture. aligned, and I see where you're going. I just caught the tail end of that there, but I'm really interested to know where that you know, birth and and why, why the the passion is there.
Farah Nanji 35:43
Is there specific panellists? You wish to address that to?
Unknown Speaker 35:47
Sorry? The lady that was just speaking?
Alessa Berg 35:53
For me? Yes, that's a great question. Thank you for asking that. Where the passion came from, you see, tophatter impact was not even meant to be my next company. And I think that's probably why it ended up being so natural and so aligned, right? Like he came from a place of observing what's going on in the world a few years ago. And actually, I realised that coming to Davos in early 2019, was a major source of inspiration, but not necessarily its version of like, oh, well, these word leaders talking about these amazing software. But the other way around, basically, I was just thinking, How is there so much talk, and it's so obvious that it's just taught, I don't even remember which specific panels or what what it was, right, because I was giving some speeches at side events. And I didn't even go to much of like the main programming, but I just remember leaving Davos and thinking, I have to do something, I just have to contribute. And I've always been a systems thinker, I like to look at things from a horizontal perspective and think, how do we enable this whole machine to work? And so it was in between companies, you know, when I had some months of free time, and I naturally gravitated to what I like, which again, is like system design, like system thinking, and looking at, where are we going on the critical path, the critical path being like what's really required for humanity to advance? Where are we going on that critical path? Because that's, that's exciting to me, right? reflect about these big problems? And then where do I naturally fit in terms of like, leveraging my talent, my passion? And so what happened is that the more I looked at impact as a whole system, right, so the impact investment impact entrepreneurship space, the more I saw, not just an amazing paradigm for our economy in our society that relies on better values, like from every perspective, but in terms of people's individual happiness, but again, also in terms of economic efficiency, right? collective value, maximisation is always better than individual, right? Like Prisoner's Dilemma obfuscated dynamics. So for those who don't know, game theory, that prisoner's dilemma has run our economy, like basically, we have these situations where if Company A doesn't do deforestation, company B is gonna do is the company is kind of like I might as well do it, right. And so all these thinking that I had going on, right about the system and about impact and about how can we accelerate an impact based paradigm eventually led me to gradually put together impact investors that are already knew, you know, I was doing a lot of angel investing at the time, and just looking at how can we accelerate the growth of such a positive paradigm. And I really thought I was doing that in between my activities in this gap of time I had, it was the gap here that never ended up being a gap year, because one year later, I realised that I have my next company because it was growing so much. And so I was too involved in it to just move on to set up the next company or, you know, be in the venture capital investment space, I was just in it. So I think that the passion to get back to your question and sum it up, came from having this play time having this time of just spending it on what I'm interested in and spending it on, where can I contribute the most where we're most excited to contribute, and then gradually form something that at some point, became an activity became a profession became a company.
Unknown Speaker 39:20
Wow. Nice, amazing answer. Thank you so much. But I wanted to add to that, just quickly, what is it that you need to accelerate the growth now that you're in the position you are, you
feel that you can grow further? What would it be if there was if we were in an ideal world? And you could ask if anything, what would that be?
Alessa Berg 39:45
We want this paradigm of impact investment and impact intrapreneurship to be far out and wide everywhere. And that's part of why we're here at Davos right, because the incumbents the current structures like we are embracing them ultimately the This is not about oh, forget about, like, you know, the old stuff, let's bring in the new doesn't quite work that way from our perspective, we're all in this together, whether we like it or not right. And so it's about building bridges to understand each other, right and sort of like, gradually get there and meet people where they're at. Right. And so I think that for some of the incumbents to understand, like the fear as well, right, like what's going on in the world like technology, geopolitical challenges, like all of that, to be able to understand it, and bring impact into that. For us, it's about how many of these bridges with corporate investors, right, can we build to help bring this there?
Unknown Speaker 40:43
Well, hopefully, I can aid you on building those bridges, because it's beautiful, what you're doing. Thank you.
Farah Nanji 40:49
Thank you. Great. Any other questions? Working?
Unknown Speaker 41:02
My question goes back to leadership. And also I wanted to ask less, what, what are the criteria or values that you see as most important for, for leaders in the future? What are the core values?
Alessa Berg 41:15
I think we can all sum it up with compassion. And I think that the practice of compassion is so beautiful and never ending, right? Because it starts with ourselves, right? I mean, I started my career in a very high achiever type of way. Because, you know, talking about the education system, I didn't know any better, right? It was, for whatever reason, or mix of skills, like easy to, to do well at school, and then to get those jobs, right. And do Did that make me happy? Absolutely not. Right. And I kind of knew it, eventually, I was trying to move towards the intrapreneurship space, which I had entered as a child and that eventually, very early in my career as well. But I think that ultimately compassion for ourselves. And then for everybody else, like everybody who's mirroring to us things that we like or don't like about ourselves, is the fastest way to grow professionally, individually, in my view, and collectively as well. And so really, I would sum it up with compassion and actually sit with what that means, right? We all have different definitions of it. And I think it's like a never ending well, as well. Right, you can approach it superficially, a few years ago, I didn't even know the meaning of the word, right. And today, I'm just so grateful for how more deeply and deeply I've been able to understand what it means to practice compassion, like in our day to day life, and with all the people and systems we interact with. And it's always you know, it's a practice where sometimes, like, we get out of it, right? And then it's always about having compassion for ourselves to be gay or getting upset or getting angry, getting frustrated about things. That's okay. Right. We're all humans, we're all trying our best. But quite frankly, I've found that the best way to actually accelerate growth, both professionally and personally in how we show up.
Dr. Royston Flude 43:03
I mean, if I could add to that, I think, compassion, patience, tolerance, humility, and sharing are the key for our prerequisites of leaders. And I think we all have a responsibility to listen to our children calling from the future, and create a world now, which is more appropriate for those times.
Farah Nanji 43:27
Do you have anything to add somewhere?
Samira Khan 43:29
The only thing I'll add is that I love the compassion piece of it. And I think for me, step one has been just empathy, instilling that sort of skill, that vision that leading from the heart, so being able to really engage with others hear their story, having patience, time in the day, for purposeful conversations with those around me unlikely people I may not speak to, and taking that extra effort and building sort of that well of empathy. I think that helps me show up with compassion. So that's the only thing I'll add.
Farah Nanji 44:09
One thing I'd like to add there, and I think compassion, gratitude, so important, and empowerment, at the end of the day, if you're not empowering those people around you, you're holding other people back, you're not paving the way for those other generations, your other teammates too. And we've probably all of us who have some level of success in this room, somebody helped us and especially we're gonna discuss this in a lot more detail on Thursday when we talk about soft skills for a digital world because everything is becoming more automated, and in the end of the day, it's those human skills that are going to carry us forward and allow us to thrive in that changing world. I see a raised hand as you can take that question please.
Unknown Speaker 44:52
Hello, my name is Marco, thank you very much for for all your your speaking is was it is very interesting. I would like to share with you one of my thoughts about leadership, because I think leadership is service. And I would like to know if you agree with this or not.
Alessa Berg 45:12
That's how we define that when I say this, at least how I defined it. When answering that question. In the beginning of the panel. Yeah, absolutely. And I was also sharing how, for some reason, this doesn't seem to be the common understanding of leadership, right, we glorify leadership a lot. And that's kind of counterintuitive, right? There is responsibility and leadership. It doesn't have to be heavy like I, I like like heartedness, right, and like how to show up because we all want to enjoy ourselves as we do all of this. Right. But there is a responsibility in it. And there is service in it. Absolutely. Agree.
Dr. Royston Flude 45:52
I think I'll just add to that. I'll just add to that, I think it's about learning lessons, firstly, because any leader knows that they don't have all the answers. But if you can learn the
lessons, and then it's making a difference, which is about, you know, having some a clear idea of where you're going. And finally, I think it's as you say, it's about service, and service above self sometimes as well.
Samira Khan 46:17
Yeah, so I definitely agree that it's service, I think what leaders struggle with or could use some help with is in service of what and how to prioritise. And I think the onus is now upon us to help that and to drive that movement so that there is more clarity given where they sit, etc, where they can have this, this additive impact or what their impact is actually on their employees, their communities, etc.
Dr. Royston Flude 46:47
I think in a way, it's actually a service to all the stakeholders, both in the organisations and in the communities and talks to bear a responsibility. It's not over there, it's not just making money. It's about trying to move the business forward. I mean, I come from a family businesses. And we've always been part of the family part of the community, and listening to people and making sure everybody has a secure base. Because that's the difference. If you have a secure base, by and large, you get the best out of people.
Farah Nanji 47:22
Very interesting, because actually, we didn't touch upon the culture and family businesses. And actually, that's one of the hardest things to change, especially as many businesses are handed down generationally. Maybe you could touch upon that for us for a couple of minutes.
Dr. Royston Flude 47:33
Family businesses have pluses and minuses. They tend to have a sort of a more of a moral responsibility, I think. But on the other hand, they can get stuck in mindsets. So we've always done it this way. And of course, for family businesses, in terms of leadership, is how do you pass the baton to the next generation? And it's just as difficult for the next generation because they've obviously been in the environment of parents or a family that's been successful. So there's huge self worth issues about how do you deal with that. So in families, what most people do is they put their children to other family businesses, so that they can cut their spurs or cut achievements, and then come back into the core family business. That's a much more gentle way of doing it.
Farah Nanji 48:25
It's good way of doing it for sure. Maybe time for like, couple more questions and then we'll end for the day. Somebody could pass that lady there and Mikey's.
Unknown Speaker 48:39
This is such a wonderful talk. Thank you all for sharing beautiful, beautiful ideas and ways that you work in the world. I'm on the cultural production side. I'm a filmmaker and an artist. And so I'm very interested in how you utilise that kind of cultural production to further the goals making, solving the problems of the world, and especially you Samira, you spoke about culture and film and art. How do you see that engagement?
Samira Khan 49:11
Yeah, I am. So I have I've only done writing myself haven't been a film producer except for trying to make mini documentaries back in college, but I it moves me like no other to really see things in visual form. So the visual arts are very, very important. It's such an important cultural institution. And I've seen large amounts of philanthropy in the space but not an adequate market for supporting interdisciplinary artists, emerging artists, even those using technology. I don't see that type of private capital and the type of markets that we need to really continue to, to facilitate that in certain ways. But apparently that doesn't stop creatives. I mean, the world is getting more more interesting and creative and production quality is higher. So I think creating some sort of a market where, you know, these ventures are valued differently are valued by traditional VC, etcetera would be very interesting. And I think it's despite that it's still a powerful lever of change, to bring people closer from different communities and show them realities on the ground. So I know virtual reality is is super important to me from the position of being able to allow certain people to experience what other people are experiencing, and war, etc, to bring them closer to the topic. And I think the arts play a role in that sensory experience.
Alessa Berg 50:44
I'll just add a quick comment on that. So how to leverage right like storytelling and content, because actually, right now, in this room, we have two people that I just want to give a shout out to rob and Max on my team, we're producing a TV series on impact for Gaia gaia.com. So give it up for Rob and Max, who are filming right now. Yeah, so for us, this is all about bringing to a larger audience that doesn't necessarily get to be exposed to all the things that that people you know, as in this room, and people here at Davos get to be exposed to right we get to talk about a positive future, we get to see what impact ventures are doing, where investments are going. But at the end of the day, that the world we live in is getting increasingly polarised and a lot of people just get this negative media write about all the next disasters that seem to be lined up one after the other. And so for us adopter impact is really about taking like these positive messages and concrete actions that we see. And then package them with storytelling in a way that can resonate with a broader audience and not necessarily about oh, wow, there's all these people doing these amazing things, more i connecting with them, right? The intrapreneurs, we're interviewing and featuring in the series, like, we're asking them about their challenges, right about their toughest moments, like, we want to take the human out of the story, or from the story, right, to show to people that this is happening, like by individuals that are just like, Damn right, and so make everybody part of this movement as well.
Dr. Royston Flude 52:22
I just really, I get slightly disappointed by some of the movies that are focused on violence, and the worst aspects of humanity. Because it's such a powerful vehicle, I think we should maybe consider how we can actually live the quality of life. I go to Ken occasionally, which is an interesting sort of circuits. Were involved in a movie at the moment. It's an experiment called Love is about Gen three generations of women. Women are the anchors in the family. But then we had to add in sci fi and paranormal, and make it a musical comedy. So you can actually say things which probably wouldn't have been so easy. And I think it's, we need as people to challenge this plethora of pain and violence, that often dehumanises Women dehumanises people. And you know, it's only about going to films that make a difference, because it's all about box office. So if you go support films that actually make a difference in life, for UPS will have changed the media.
Farah Nanji 53:32
Just like to add to that, because creative storytelling also think about gaming and the way that our children are interacting with games is the number one game out there as Call of Duty. That's the mindset that children are being instilled upon fear of violence shooting, I personally am very against that game, just because I just see how infiltrated it is amongst so many children and how desensitised they then become to violence and how that breeds in schools and how that the later on, carries through to life. So I think, you know, all four of us here are all in some shape or form involved in media, creative storytelling, whether it's gaming, film, music, TV. And so you know, I think it's really about keeping those values that you hold to your core and really, you know, being authentic with it and challenging, as you said, the, and supporting the ones that really are doing it in the right sort of way. Maybe time for one more question, and then we'll we'll wrap up.
Unknown Speaker 54:25
Hi, I'm gonna throw that just a question as a comment. Actually. I think it's all about shifting the mindset from the mindset of fear to the mindset of abundance. And if you can resonate with that, could you please share with us? How could we, ourselves, cultivate the mindset of abundance? Thank you.
Farah Nanji 54:45
Just look around. We're in the mountains, we have nature all around us. Nature is abundance. As somebody was saying earlier on our panel. Actually, we won't know that. At the end. We can all kill each other as humans, but nature will always breed life and that's the abundance And, and I don't know if you three have anything to add. But
Alessa Berg 55:04
I like what you just said. I mean, ultimately, this goes back to right now like the challenges that we're facing, they're not about, oh, we're destroying the earth, like the Earth is fine one way or the other. It's about our species now making it through because we're very delicate. And we haven't been around for a long time on this planet. And so what we're screwing up is actually our living conditions, right? When dinosaurs were around just a few million years ago, this planet was absolutely unlivable for our species as it is today. So we have to remember that we are delicate, and we are part of this ecosystem were imbalanced with it. It's been proven in the theory of evolution, that we actually don't evolve as a single species like Darwin originally stated, we evolve as entire ecosystems in balance with each other. Right? And so being being able to remember that right of the abundance that we have around us and in nature, right, as a species, I think is humbling, and, and sort of, like essential to how we do things.
Samira Khan 56:06
Yeah, I mean, I had a thought when I was basically coming to Davos yesterday. So I've always recognised that, you know, if we don't have a planet, we don't have humanity or humankind. And there'll be nothing left if we don't maintain or foster that regenerative force. But as I was coming, I was having a little trouble with some of my luggage and a stranger came up to me, from Ukraine, young boy, and he said, you know, let me help you. And we got to talking about the war. And we just connected at a certain level because I wasn't using my cell phone, I was cognizant that I was speaking to a stranger who just helped me. And that circle of kindness is very much still alive amongst humanity, if given the space to breathe, and right after that I was stuck in the rain, and some strangers just decided to give me a ride. And I thought, you know how ironic I'm on this train. I see this beautiful greenness. I'm experiencing human kindness in this way. And if only we could use that kindness, that connection better to really save this verdant greenness. You know, we wouldn't be in so much trouble. So that thought just crossed my mind as I was coming here.
Dr. Royston Flude 57:25
I think fear is the most dangerous thing that we have in our society. And it's not just actual fear, it's perceived fear. What that keeps keeps people in paralysis. If you look at self worth, when you have low self worth, and you're driven by fear, you often move into displacement activities. And that's things like eating disorders, substance abuse, and so on. And even if you try and solve those, it doesn't work, because people will go on to something else, because they don't face learned helplessness, if you improve self worth, and that's where leadership comes in, which is improving the self worth of all the people you interact with, and shining, then people naturally move away from these displacement activities. And they learn hope, and love and learned optimism.
Farah Nanji 58:17
I couldn't agree more perception forms reality. And one of my favourite quotes by Rumi is you're not a drop in the ocean, but you're the entire ocean in a drop. And I think that's something that, hopefully is very inspiring for mindset of abundance. I saw the lady over there had a question. So we can take that as the last question. And then enjoy that.
Unknown Speaker 58:34
Thank you so much. I think just the last question is about I guess, mental health and well being, you know, when you're a leader, and especially like in times of crisis going through, let's say the COVID 19 pandemic, how do you manage that? And what kind of empathy does that create for you as a leader, but also for your team and the whole environment? But the question is for all of the speakers to contribute,
Dr. Royston Flude 58:57
and maybe I should have a go at that one. We see mental health as a ticking time bomb. We COVID has already created this tidal wave that will be going through our system for some time. You find that if you have a physical wound, it often heals in about 10 weeks or so that mental health challenges can heal take months and months if not years. Were incredibly worried about Ukraine. Because once something has gone on for a generation, it can go on forever. We a generation is about 20 odd years. So Northern Ireland if you talk to Lord alderdice, for example, he will say that the story that's told from parent to child and so on is can be distorted. It's a Chinese walls things so you can actually promulgate abuse and mental health across generations Northern Ireland's lasted 400 years. So I think Mental health is something which we still don't know, completely how to deal with. I think, clearly there's Post Traumatic Stress Disorder just there. And we think we need to create mechanisms where people can help themselves. Because just going to a psychologist or a counsellor isn't enough.