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Global Economics

The Secret of Davos: No One Can Stay Awake

A skier rests on Jakobshorn mountain in Davos, Switzerland, on Jan. 19

Photograph by Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

A skier rests on Jakobshorn mountain in Davos, Switzerland, on Jan. 19

There you are, a global mover and shaker, sitting comfortably in a warm meeting room in the Swiss Alps. You’ve just had a heavy lunch with ample wine, you’re jet-lagged, and you were up late last night at a well-lubricated after-after party. You begin to lose the thread of the presentation, although “corporate social responsibility” seems to keep popping up. Your head droops forward. Your eyes close briefly, then again.

This is the Davos Nap. Photographic evidence of it is rare or non-existent: The organizers of the World Economic Forum forbid news photographers from taking embarrassing photos of attendees at what is, at least in some sense, a private event. But trust me, it happens. People snooze in the audience. People doze on the dais. People have been known to catch a few awkward winks on a bench in the Congress Centre.

I’ve fallen asleep in Davos myself, only to be wakened by applause as someone finishes speaking. I quickly join in clapping, stealing glances left and right to see if anyone has noticed my pathetic fake. It’s hard to explain to my stateside editors that I don’t know what happened during a session because I was, ahem, sound asleep. (Come to think of it, this article may be bad for my career.)

Just to be clear, this is no criticism of the World Economic Forum, which really does grapple with some of the most important issues of the day and bring together notable thinkers and powerful people from business, government, and other sectors. What’s more, Davos is hardly the only important venue at which people fall asleep. You don’t have to scratch too deeply to find headlines like this: “Did Biden Fall Asleep During Obama Deficit Speech?” Or this: “Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Sleeps Through SOTU Address.”

Still, there’s no denying that the Davos Nap is uniquely alluring in its ability to cross cultural lines and appeal to the rich and ultra-rich alike. We are truly sincere about sustainability, gender gaps, and reshaping the world of work. But we are getting verrry sleeeeeepy.

Coy is Bloomberg Businessweek's economics editor. His Twitter handle is @petercoy.

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