WEF, Davos 2023: A knowledge factory in an unpredictable world – MultiChoice Chairman Imtiaz Patel

MultiChoice Chairman Imtiaz Patel shares insights on why he values attending The World Economic Forum as a business leader. An interesting discussion on the value of knowledge and why no expense should be shared as we navigate the highly unpredictable world we live in.

Imtiaz Patel on coming to Davos with an open mind

I don’t hope for anything. I always come with an open mind. There are a lot of vexing questions in the world, particularly about South Africa. So we come here with an open mind, to reflect, to learn, and then to form opinions.

Trendy discussions at WEF 

It is a bit of a process. You have a full, busy day and then you reflect overnight, get data points, and then you pull it all together over weeks. You make notes, you reflect on the notes, and then you come to conclusions. And then the world changes and those conclusions are completely out of the window. We have done this many times and how many times have we been wrong in predicting what outcomes are? I was here in May. It was very interesting and one of the things that stood out for me – because I keep reflecting on whether you really learn anything here – was this move away from globalisation and the localisation of manufacturing. I heard it for the first time here, and when I see what’s actually happening, it’s manifesting in a very serious way. So, this is one of the trends that one picks up. What you do about it is the other challenge – when you pick up a trend, when you pick up deep conversations around, where you think people are saying the world is heading. How does it impact you, your business, on our country… then what do we do about it?

ChatGPT hailed as a game-changer 

It does feel like there is a whole new canvas. Think about it, there was very little talk about chatGPT, and suddenly in two weeks, people are saying it can upend jobs. It can reframe the way we get information. How do teachers mark a student’s essay? Was it written by a chatGPT or not? What does it mean for our organisation going back? What do we do with our call centres? Do we ask people to ask us questions via chatGPT or via AI? There is just so much going on and it almost feels like the world needs to settle a little bit for us to breathe and get a sense. But I think we are in the eye of the storm.

Gaining knowledge at WEF 

Probably about five times, not really a veteran. It is a very interesting place. I saw your comments this morning about people out there who believe this is part of some kind of global agenda which I find fascinating. Essentially, one is here to learn. You made a very interesting comment, “if you think it is expensive to gain knowledge then think about how expensive it is to have no knowledge”.

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