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The home of the famous Rockettes, Radio City Music Hall, was turned into a business conference full of movers and shakers in the world of commerce.


The 2011 World Business Forum opened Tuesday, October 5. This Forum is the largest business event in the United States where business, political and academic leaders present innovative strategies on doing business.


This special event, attended by over 4000 attendees from over 50 countries, of which 80% are at VP level or above, provides a forum of incredible speakers sharing their knowledge and business experience.


The business climate around the world has undergone massive changes over the last few years. Whether it is the global financial markets, social media, healthcare or the future of globalization, this event updated attendees with the latest thinking directly from those who are setting the agenda.


In this article, Forum Publisher Martin Stevens, shares some of the information available at the conference with our readers.


Over a dozen speakers gave presentations over the two day event. In this article I have summarized some of the key highlights of each speaker.


Al Gore

Former Vice President of the United States, congressman, Vietnam veteran and journalist

Mr. Gore spoke of a topic near and dear to him, Global Affairs with relation to climate change. In his presentation, Mr. Gore advised leaders that business models need to be retooled with more of a long-term strategic vision than is currently in force.


Martin Lindstrom

One of the World’s 100 Most Influential People in 2009, according to TIME, Martin Lindstrom is the author of Buyology-Truth and Lies About Why We Buy, a New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller.


Mr. Lindstrom ran a very interesting segment on marketing. His term “neuromarketing” was explained as the future of what marketing will be like in the next decade or two. He feels that 85% of people’s buying decisions take place in the non conscious part of the brain. His system explains how to combine science with the latest technologies and marketing insights. His interesting observation disputing the myth that “sex sells” explains that when we market using sexy images the consumers brains are so hard-wired to be seduced by sex that we tend to forget everything around the marketing and just remember the sexy bits.


We’ve all heard the phrase “retail therapy” and Mr. Lindstrom believes that when people shop their body releases dopamine to their brain, which can make them feel good. This is the same neurotransmitter that is released when someone is on drugs.  So, shopping can be addictive. He goes on that many top retailers use neuromarketing as a tool to make consumers buy.

This segment was extremely informative for all of us who are involved in the retail industry.


David Gergen

Former White House advisor for 30 years, David Gergen was director of communications for President Reagan, and served as counselor to President Clinton on both foreign policy and domestic affairs.Mr. Gergen, who was an advisor to four US Presidents has observed first hand some of the most powerful leaders on the planet. He is in a unique position when it comes to assessing the traits and habits of the most successful leadership practices.


In his seminar, Mr. Gergen explained that while he did not always agree with the conservative views of Ronald Reagan, he was one of the single most impressive leaders he ever met. A great leaders knows his beliefs and core values and does not waver. In comparison was Jimmy Carter who Gergen called wishy-washy and undecided of direction.


It is Gergen’s belief that those who are “steady in principle, flexible in means” make great leaders. If you are leading your company and want to be successful you need to be optimistic,  enthusiastic and sure of your focus and direction.


When it came to our current President Obama, Gergen explained that there is widespread disappointment in the business community. Instead of bringing the country together, as promised, it continues to be divided. Obama is being lauded as a historic president, but there is very little confidence in him from the business world.


When asked if he felt there was any indication that Obama might change, Gergen responded that he sees nothing to indicate that at the moment.


A.G. Lafley

A.G. Lafley is the former Chairman of the Board, President and Chief Executive Officer of Procter & Gamble, the world’s largest consumer goods company.


According to Mr. Lafley, the era of the consumer always being right is over! Before you get too excited, his next statement was that: Now the consumer is boss!


Following that mantra, during his leadership at P&G, sales doubled and profits quadrupled.


He explained that in retailing and other service businesses the “customer is always right” referred to exchanging products of refunding purchases without question, or taking the extra step to provide a little better or more service.


The intent of “customer is boss” was is more comprehensive and more disruptive. At P&G they turned the organization chart upside down to have the consumer at the top and the CEO at the bottom. The consumers played a big part in developing the company as P&G became more consumer centric.


The key for all businesses that deal with the public is to be connected and communicate and interact with them. It’s simply called “open innovation” and it can work for all size companies.


He also called upon companies, especially manufacturers to know when to retire items that have outlived their purpose. His biggest failure, maybe you remember this, was Fit, the fruit and vegetable wash. Knowing when to back off a product is as important as knowing when to promote one.


Vijay Govindarajan

Vijay Govindarajan is widely regarded as one of the world’s leading experts on strategy and innovation and has authored seven books on the subjects.


According to Mr. Govindarajan, the future of innovation lies in the developing countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America. He spoke at the Forum about reverse innovation.


Innovation is very broad, it could be product innovation or process innovation. We are told not to confuse innovation with creativity. Innovation is commercializing creativity. It is 1% inspiration  and 99% perspiration. The 1% is creativity.


Reverse innovation is to innovate in poor countries like India and China and then bring the innovations to rich country’s like the US. It is logical to see why a poor man would want a rich man’s product: a rich man has a car – the poor man wants a car; the rich man has a cell phone – the poor man wants a cell phone. But it is not easy to see why a rich man would want a poor man’s product and that is what reverse innovation is all about.


This innovation is the oxygen which is going to fuel the future growth of developed countries. We need to win in the emerging markets or simply decay and wither away.


Consider that when you drop the price of a product, for example a lap top computer, people simply buy more lap tops – one for the office, home, kid, spouse, etc.


One of the highlights of my time at the World Business Forum was meeting former Chairman and CEO of General Electric. Heralded as one of the greatest CEO’s in history, Mr. Welch was a delight to speak with as well as be privileged to hear some of his business missives.


 Jack Welch

The most admired CEO in the world. During his 20 years as Chairman and CEO of GE, he transformed the company into a powerhouse and increased GE market value by $387 billion.


I have been a long-time fan of Jack Welch, who is the consummate CEO and one of the most well-respected businessmen in the world. It was a pleasure meeting him this year, as he was not able to make last year’s meeting due to illness. Mr. Welch looked great, was in great spirits and I was able to speak with him briefly between his broadcast interviews at the Forum with Bloomberg News and his seminar.


Mr. Welch is a big believer in “telling it like it is” when it comes to work and worker quality. While he doesn’t like the term “Rank and Yank” he believes that too many company managers keep under-performing employees hoping that they will improve. This hurts businesses.


He refers to it as lack of candor when supervisors do not provide accurate feedback to subordinates in the misguided effort to be “nice” to them.  At GE, Mr. Welch would rank employees and when making reviews, the bottom 10 percent would be fired. While it sounds harsh, he goes on that people get ranked in school when they are graded. Why do we give grades only to kids and not adults?


When asked how Mr. Welch defines a winner, he responds “Today , I see winning as people defining their objectives and fulfilling them. Not being a victim. You define where you want to go and then you go for it. You can’t win all the time and in your career you’ll sometimes go from a prince to a pig!”


This special report brought to you by the leading magazine for wholesale merchandise, Retailers Forum Magazine.