10 Break-Out Sessions

  • Time: 3:30 pm - 4:30 pm

A Demographic Revolution: Young India Takes Charge (with All India Management Association)
Ritesh Agarwal, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, OYO Rooms
Pranjal Sharma (Topic Leader), Economic Analyst, Advisor and Author, India

India is undergoing its economic, technological and demographic transition simultaneously. An old country is becoming youthful and adventurous with the passage of time. Young Indians like OYO founder Ritesh Agarwal are quietly taking charge of Indian ethos by becoming icons of audacious aspirations and tangible proofs of its potential, spawning startups that are becoming most valuable and famous than many legacy companies. How can young revolutionaries find ways to carry the older generation of investors, regulators, workers and consumers with them and what can other economies and founders learn from India’s momentous transition?

Collaborative Advantage Across Generations: Reflecting on the SGS Experience (ISC Alumni)
Former Members of the International Students' Comittee
Christoph Loos (Topic Leader), Chief ­Executive ­Offi­cer, Hilti AG
Vivian Bernet (Topic Leader), Head of the Organising Committe, International Students' Comittee
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For over 50 years teams of student have volunteered to organise the St. Gallen Symposium. They have written countless invitations, met thousands of partners, and welcomed some of the most important personalities of their time on stage. Together with former members of the ISC we will reflect on the St. Gallen Symposium experience of cross-generational dialogue and collaboration, the lessons they have learned for their lives and on how the symposium has evolved. This session is organised together with ISC Alumni.

Collective Genius? Cultivating Creativity in the Arts and Beyond
Susan Goldsworthy, Affiliate Professor of Leadership, Communications and Organizational Change, IMD Business School
Gerry Hofstetter, Light Artist & Film Producer Hofstetter Marketing
Javiera Estrada, Artist
Tatjana Rupp (Topic Leader), Member of the International Students' Committee

As the need for innovation is growing, the routinisation of well-structured creative processes within organizations is key for concurrent value creation. Prof. Susan Goldsworthy of IMD, this year's St. Gallen Symposium artist Javiera Estrada and Light Artist Gerry Hofstetter will discuss the role of collaboration in the creative process. Together, and in conversation with the audience, they’ll explore the way collaboration can drive creativity in various organisational contexts, and, on the other hand, the role of introversion and lone contemplation in creating something new.

Connecting Business with Purpose: The Potential of Skills-Based Volunteering
Curdin Duschletta, Head Community Impact Switzerland & Foundations, UBS
Christopher Jarvis, Executive Director, RWInstitute
Prof. Amanda Shantz (Topic Leader), MBA Director and Professor of Management, University of St.Gallen

Many employee volunteering and giving programs are presented as an employee perk, similar to casual Fridays or a team-building event. But treating workplace giving and volunteering this way fails to fully capitalise on the great potential of such programs: to foster employee personal growth, and address key societal challenges. The panel will particularly explore the potential of skills-based volunteering, its benefits, and the unique challenges that arise when moving from merely transactional volunteering to something far more transformative.

Financing the Next Generation of Entrepreneurs
Patrick Zhong, Founding Managing Partner, M31 Capital
Makram Azar, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Full Circle Capital
Prof. Julia Binder (Topic Leader), Professor of Sustainable Innovation and Business Transformation, IMD Business School

The investment landscape over the next twenty years will be radically different from previous generations. While there appears to be greater access to capital, there also appears to be much more volatility and debt with no clear dominant financing mechanism. Entrepreneurs, VC, Private Equity, and banks will have to find new ways to work together to create growth and stimulate innovation. How can investors and entrepreneurs better collaborate and find mutually beneficial agreements that balance risk and return?

Hacking the Fashion & Luxury Watchmaking Industry towards more Sustainability (with Condé Nast College)
Martina Bonnier, Editor-In-Chief, Vogue Scandinavia
Raynald Aeschlimann, President and CEO, Omega S.A
Carmen Jenny, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, CLOTHESfriends AG
Johannes Reponen (Topic Leader), Director of Post-Graduate Programmes; Academic Affairs; Research & Knowledge Exchange, Condé Nast College

The fashion industry accounts for 10% of humanity’s annual carbon emissions – more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined. For long, the fashion and luxury watchmaking industry drove, together with the fashion media industry, unsustainable dynamics in the sector: generating more and more demand through an artificial cycle of new collections and seasonal trends. Businesses’ marketing, media as well as influencers thereby create a constant longing and demand for their products. How can designers, fashion houses and publishers exit this vicious cycle and, collaboratively, drive the transition towards more sustainable and ethical fashion and luxury watchmaking?

M100 Sanssouci Colloquium@St. Gallen: Media’s New Power: More Impact Through Collaborative Journalism
Mathias Müller von Blumencron, Journalist, Member of the Board, Tagesanzeiger and Advisory Board Member M100 Sanssouci Colloquium
Joanna Krawczyk, Chairwoman, Leading European Newspaper Alliance
Paul Radu, Investigative Journalist, Co-Founder OCCRP
Astrid Frohloff (Topic Leader), TV Presenter and Journalist, Advisory Board Member M100 Sanssouci Colloquium

Media diversity, freedom of the press and freedom of expression in Europe are currently under threat. Journalists and independent media companies are increasingly joining forces across borders to respond to such challenges as well as to be able to continue to offer independent quality journalism in the future. This session will identify learnings from new media partnerships such as the Leading European Newspaper Alliance (LENA) and the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) to identify how media can most effectively work together.

Democratizing Access to the next Generation of Technology and Innovation: Communities and Radical Transformation
Gina Loften, Member of the Board of Trustees, TIAA
Luzius Meisser, Chairman, Bitcoin Suisse
Tycho Onnasch, General Manager, Trust Machines
Shuo Chen (Topic Leader), General Partner, IOVC

Technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship are key drivers of the modern economy and social mobility. Given their importance, we should strive to improve accessibility to tech, education and entrepreneurship across all backgrounds. Creating open and inclusive communities, especially with tech is important to accomplishing this goal, but it is easier said that done. Simultaneously, a third iteration of the internet – Web3 – has the potential to radically transform the internet of things and reduce barriers to access. How can these forces be effectively harnessed and directed for the benefit of all people and move the world forward?

Varieties of Tech Capitalism: Europe's Approach to Innovation and Regulation in a Global Context
Julian Teicke, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, wefox
Lisa-Marie Fassl, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Female Founders
Christoph Keese (Topic Leader), Managing Partner and Chief Executive Officer, hy

Over the past decades, the tech sector, especially the internet of things, has become a central component of modern economies. Trying to catch up with the exponential pace of technological development, the US, China, and Europe are crafting rules of the game on digital markets. What are the emerging characteristic differences between regulatory regimes of digital markets, in the US, Europe and beyond, and how do they balance innovation and regulation? In light of strategic competition over tech dominance between the US and China, what are the opportunities and challenges for Europe in particular?

Changed for Good? Engaging with the New World of Work
Petra von Strombeck, Chief Executive Officer, New Work SE
Jean-Christophe Deslarzes, Chair of the Board, Adecco Group
Nat Ware, Founder & CEO Forte
Prof. Heike Bruch (Topic Leader), Director, Institute for Leadership and Human Resources Management, University of St. Gallen
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The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the world of work forever. The fast and widespread adoption of remote work and an ever-increasing concern of employees with purpose and meaning on their job have intensified the war for talents. Reaching out to and concurrently engaging employees is key for businesses across sectors and regions. What learnings can be drawn from the pandemic as regards our approach to work? Has the world of work changed for the better? And what role does leadership culture and a new approach to hiring play going forward?

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“I Believe in Dialogue and Mutual Support Between Generations”

An Exclusive Interview with Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Lech Wałęsa (Part 3 of 3)

In an exclusive interview, Leader of Tomorrow Grégoire Roos talks to Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and former Polish President Lech Wałęsa about Wałęsa’s own struggle for freedom, the current contestations of liberal democracy across the globe, and his vision for the future of Europe.

The interview was conducted in early 2020, before the COVID-19 crisis, in Gdansk, Poland. This is part three of the interview. You can find part one here and part two here.

Grégoire Roos: In your memoirs, published ten years ago, you talk of your childhood. You say that your hardworking childhood made you stronger (you walked miles barefoot to school in order not to bare out your leather shoes, which your mother had bought by the sweat of her brow; you worked hard in the family farm, and even occasionally for neighbours in need…). I was born after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and like most of my generation I enjoyed a comfort and a freedom that you couldn’t even possibly imagine when you were my age. I know you’re an optimist, passionate about new technologies (I should stress here that you manage your Facebook and Instagram accounts yourself with your tablet!) and very close to the young, but do you think that the comfort and carefreeness the new generations have enjoyed have had a bad impact on politics?

Lech Wałęsa: I couldn’t say it’s been particularly bad. The new generations are simply different. I may sound like repeating myself, but you have to locate everything in time and space. Your generation will need to find its own solutions to its own problems. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying it’s not my business. I’m just saying it would be stupid and useless to tell the younger generation that they are helpless, that they don’t understand anything to what’s going on in the world, and that the problems of the coming world are no longer mine. No, yesterday was not necessarily better than today. And I believe in the dialogue of generations, in the mutual support between generations.

It’s like Europe: you won’t achieve anything if you do everything in your own little corner. The burden weighing on your generation’s shoulders is not that light either you know. You’re confronted with imperatives that were unknown to my generation: unemployment, cancer, HIV/AIDS, global warming, terrorism, crisis of Europe, the need to go on and on studying for years before finding a decent job… and, perhaps the toughest of all: speed. You have no more time to do anything. That’s perhaps the greatest challenge the younger generations are facing and will be increasingly facing. Each generation has its own challenges. I like to repeat that God gives you such a cross that you are able to carry. It’s up to each of us to find the strength to bear it. My cross was that of the post-WW2 communist world, with the threat of a nuclear cataclysm. You have the cross of globalisation, with the ghost of artificial intelligence.

Roos: One detail in your memoirs keeps striking me. You say that you’ve never really liked history. But how can we lead a people and try to tackle the great challenges of the time if we don’t take an interest in history? You said that leadership was inseparable from consciousness. But if you think about it, what is history if not the conscience of the peoples?

Wałęsa: Well I have a different approach to history. If you travel in Poland, you’ll see that some of the country’s greatest heroes are those who killed the most Germans. Same if you travel to Russia. If we decided to stop fighting wars and to make peace, it’s surely not to entertain this memory of killing and bloodshed. Our great-grandchildren may not want to renovate all the statues of these heroes. And that’s perhaps better. We’re going away from the era of wars, and moving towards that of globalised peace. I think we are currently witnessing this kind of movement in the US. It might take an excessively violent form here and there, but I feel the substance is legitimate.

Roos: Don’t you confuse history with the past or memory here? History is not just about statues and who killed more neighbours. It’s about something greater. It’s our common DNA beyond our age, gender, religion, skin colour or political affiliation. Churchill used to say that all political solutions (and we’ve been talking about solutions since we started this discussion) were to be found in history books.

Wałęsa: I’m thinking about Churchill in a different way… Churchill betrayed Poland my dear! He gave us to the Soviets. But perhaps it is because he was so wise and farsighted, and that he knew from the very beginning that Poles would destroy communism! Poles and no one else [laugh]!

Roos: Shortly before his election, Pope Benedict XVI denounced a “dictatorship of relativism”, which, according to him, was corroding our societies and preventing them from distinguishing between good and evil. Getting back to the question of history (for you haven’t really answered it), is there any identifiable link between the relative crisis of culture, this tendency of forgetfulness of the younger generation, and, on the other hand, the fact that this generation no longer seems to have any interest in politics and elections? People like father Jerzy Popiełuszko [a Polish priest active in factories, who died of torture at the hands of thugs of the communist regime], a symbol of the fight of the Polish people for freedom, died so that others could live free. I know you are an optimist, but let’s be realistic: is this relativism and erosion of culture and knowledge not a problem?

Wałęsa: I will disappoint you but no, it is not a problem. What you seem to suggest is that it is mostly because the young have less culture and knowledge of history (which is perhaps true) that they no longer vote. I can’t agree with you. I believe that the real reason behind the young’s low turnout in the polls is that they feel they’re not properly understood and represented by political parties. And here we get back to what we discussed earlier on regarding the need for better representativeness of society’s social structure in political parties. Voting is the demonstration of an interest, of a trust. Why would you have an interest in what doesn’t show you any attention? Why would you trust those who seem not to care for you? Do you think the voters are mere philanthropists? Do you think they’re stupid? No, of course they’re not! The young do not vote and it’s the best wake-up call we could imagine to lead parties to reinvent and reorganise themselves.

Two Nobel Peace Prize Laureates, Lech Wałęsa and the Dalai Lama, meet during a discussion on non-violence in Darmstadt, Germany in September 2018. Photo: Manuel Bauer

Roos: Let’s come back to your memoirs. Talking of the communist government, you say: “they didn’t want a fox, they wanted a lion”. But you actually turned out to be a fox, to the great despair of the communist regime. You’ve just said that each time calls for its own solutions. What would the current world require then? More foxes, or more lions?

Wałęsa: It’s a good question. I would be tempted to say that our world asks for both: foxes and lions. But, you know, the situation in the 1980s was very special, just like my enemy. The Government wanted to fool us, lead us to unleash our anger and turn it into violence. Back then, roaring (as we’re talking of lion) could mean ending up in jail. So we had to turn into foxes, moving quickly and in silence. In wars of attrition, foxes are stronger than lions. Today we need more arguments, more debate, more intellectualism in the political approach. But we also need more energy in the determination for change…

Roos: In other words, more thinking lions?

Wałęsa: Yes, exactly. But it should be a lion that would be ready to share the catch. Not sure everyone is ready for that…

Roos: In this discussion, I’ve often heard you mention God. Reflecting upon the causes of the 1917 Revolution and the rise of the USSR, Russian writer and Nobel laureate Alexander Solzhenitsyn once wrote that everything had happened because, in the end, “men had forgotten God”. In our modern societies, as we mentioned earlier, we no longer found politics on God (taken in the sense of a transcendence, not of a religion). So on what do we found a narrative for leadership if God has disappeared?

Wałęsa: Well I wouldn’t say God has entirely disappeared. Things are just all mixed-up. I would say that we’ve incorporated God in our fight against rivalry. Let’s put it another way: we need God for our after-life. But politics is not about what comes after death (and which is still uncertain…), but about now, about the current, about the present. Many rules that encourage and promote order and justice are actually stemming from godly principles.

And after all, you’ve referred to two popes in your previous questions, which means that men of God can still be relevant references in a political discussion. Religions are still used around the world for evil purposes, we shouldn’t forget it. That is also why the very notion of God is taken very cautiously in the political debate of Western societies. It has brought about too many divisions. You are right, however, that we must make the distinction between God and religion, for God is needed, but in a spiritual – not religious – way.

Roos: Reflecting upon your marriage, your wife once commented: “it is impossible to see clear in him. For everything that happened, this mystery was crucial, otherwise he would never have survived.” What is the place of loneliness and mystery in leadership?

Wałęsa: To be honest with you, I haven’t been able to see through myself either [laugh]! I’m discovering myself every day. But to answer your question with the same honesty, I can but say that there is no answer. You can only pretend to answer. I think each human reaction in front of a crisis is unique, and that some people are more reserved and discreet than others.

I believe we are also a product of a childhood, of an education. It is therefore difficult to tell you: yes, you need to be mysterious to be a good leader. We could say nonetheless that you need enough inner depth to dive into yourself when the events ask you to take tough decisions, or that the enemy wants to isolate you. Learning to get on well with yourself is important. You are your best companion.

Roos: What is your definition of courage?

Wałęsa: Oh but you’ve kept the toughest question for the end! Again, this can only be a personal answer. What I think is that you should feel the moment when you should act, trust your instinct (whence the need to know yourself). Courage is being able to take a decision when everyone around you is shouting, paralysed and unable to act. It’s not about being unflappable, for we are all humans, we are all weak and mortals. I think it is about managing to move by drawing from the depths of your being this extra breath of harmony everyone else around you is lacking. And, last but not least: remain true to yourself, to your creeds and beliefs, however tempting it may sometimes be to disown them.

Lech Wałęsa is a Polish Statesman, an electrician turned trade union, human rights and democracy activist, and a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate who served as the first democratically-elected President of Poland from 1990 to 1995. As leader of the “Solidarity” movement, he played a fundamental role in the Roundtable Talks between the workers and Poland’s communist government, which resulted in the first semi-free elections in a Warsaw-Pact country in 1989 and the end of the communist rule in Poland. A year later, in December 1990, Lech Wałęsa was elected President of Poland, and led his country’s transition from communism to a free-market liberal democracy which later joined NATO (1999) and the EU (2004).

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