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Ketchum CEO Barri Rafferty's 5 top takeaways from Davos 2018

Top 5 takeaways from Davos 2018
Top 5 takeaways from Davos 2018 03:30

Global leaders converge every year in Davos, Switzerland, to talk shop about the world's most pressing problems: Poverty, technological change, global trade, sustainability and, lately, populism. Barri Rafferty, newly appointed global CEO of the PR firm Ketchum, spoke with CBS News about her top takeaways from this year's summit. 

  1. Artificial intelligence

Artificial intelligence, or AI, "was ubiquitous," Rafferty said. "I don't think there was a session you could go into, whether it was health care or agriculture or technology that didn't talk about how AI is going to change our workforce." 

However, she added, there are certain human qualities AI can't replace, skills like creativity and empathy.

Human workers can get a leg up on robots by highlighting the features machines don't have, she said. "We need to teach people to question things; to be more creative; to be more insightful. Those are skills that are not memorization skills but tactics that we need to teach our children along the way." 

2. Blockchain technology

"The blockchain" became a buzzword about two years ago, coming onto the scene simultaneously with AI, Rafferty said. Blockchain is the ledger system behind digital currencies.

But where AI has since been adopted by any number of industry sectors, blockchain is much less developed. "Blockchain has not advanced as much, but because of cryptocurrency, there's so much interest in it." she said. "There was a lot of debate -- are we able to crunch that kind of data? Do we have the power sources?"

"There's a lot of infrastructure areas they're looking at to make it real," she said, "but certainly the vision is there."

3. Concern about the oceans

"Sustainability and climate change continue to be a key theme," Rafferty said. "You heard a lot this year about the oceans... people are very concerned about more plastics being in the ocean than fish," she said. "There's a lot of concern about drilling and things that are going to happen in our oceans."

Food production challenges 02:59

4. Women's issues have taken center stage

When Rafferty first attended the meeting in Davos seven years ago, she was frequently mistaken for a spouse, she recalls. "It was the fist time I felt like a minority."

But, as concerns over women's equity have moved to center stage, she said, that's no longer the case.

"What started as a female issue became a business issue," Rafferty said. "This year, female topics -- whether it was pay equity, equality -- really moved from the side room and what I call an 'HR topic' to being a C-suite topic." 

"There were actually men by themselves talking" about closing the gender gap, she noted. 

And the business case for promoting gender equality is clear, she added. "When you have a more diverse slate of senior executives, and a more diverse board and business, you're going to be more profitable." 

5. The importance of reskilling

"Another theme that I saw this week was the concept of reskilling," Rafferty said. "When you're 22 and you graduate, in our day, you thought you had everything."

But, she said, "our education system is first Industrial Revolution where we're fourth industrial revolution. With AI, with technology, with everything changing, there are jobs that are going to go away. We're going to have to reskill the workforce, whether you're at a big corporation, or in a factory.

"To do an overhaul of curriculum, and an overhaul with adults that are already working," Rafferty added, "it's going to take what Davos proposes -- a lot of people working together, and a lot of collaboration, to get there." 

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