First day wraps on inaugural Thunderbird Global Business Dialogue

November 10, 2011

Leadership discussions brought together 1,000 attendees and 50+ global speakers from 50 nations

(GLENDALE, Ariz.) November 10, 2011 — More than 1,000 business executives, global leaders, government officials, NGO representatives and thought leaders convened in Glendale today to attend the inaugural Thunderbird Global Business Dialogue, a signature business conference hosted by the No. 1 school in international business. The first day’s agenda featured discussions on leadership in times of crisis, emerging economies and panels on financial solutions and jobs. The theme of the conference is “Redefining Global Leadership,” and continues tomorrow.

Robert Dudley, CEO of BP Group, began the event with a speech on “Leadership in Times of Crisis.” A class of 1979 Thunderbird alumnus who was appointed CEO in November 2010 after the Deepwater Horizon disaster, he described how his company needed to react quickly and candidly to manage the crisis. “Denial is the worst enemy of effective crisis management,” Dudley said. To be successful during hardship, leaders need to have “determination, focus, a thick skin and a quiet sense of optimism.” He also recommended managers should try to listen to “the quietest voice in the room” and to never lose track of your values, even if there is an easier alternative.

Next was a panel that brought together leaders from Boeing, the U.S. Navy, Alliance Trust PLC, Global Sources, Ford Motor Company, BBVA Compass and the City of Mumbai, where discussion focused on the challenges CEOs need to overcome in the next decade. A key takeaway was that global leaders need to be humble and effectively harness their human capital to be successful.

“When we hire people in our organization, we have an obligation to remove their barriers to success,” said speaker Marsha “Marty” Evans, a retired Rear Admiral for the U.S. Navy and the first woman to command a U.S. naval station. “If you want to be a leader, your responsibility is to serve,” said Katherine Garrett-Cox, the CEO and CIO of Alliance Trust PLC, the largest quoted investment trust in the United Kingdom.

Dr. Craig R. Barrett, Retired CEO/Chairman of the Board for Intel Corporation, gave the luncheon keynote address. He discussed the challenges presented by emerging markets and framed his talk around three fortune cookies he had received over the course of his life: “The world will always accept talent with open arms.  You can’t win unless you compete.  A small deed done is better than a big deed planned.” Dr. Barrett, who is also a member of Thunderbird’s faculty, also discussed his concern with low U.S. achievement scores in math and science and stressed the need for continued innovation for the country to be competitive globally.

Building on the school’s impressive knowledge in emerging economies, afternoon breakout sessions focused on Africa, Latin America, China, India, the Middle East and Russia. Other afternoon panels focused on sustainable prosperity and economic empowerment.

José María Figueres, the Former President of Costa Rica and currently a Managing Partner of IJ Partners, an investment and wealth management company based in Geneva, delivered the evening keynote on the low carbon economy. “There is no planet ‘B,’” Figueres said. “Depending on the decisions we make, it will be pleasant or increasingly inhospitable.” Elected President of Costa Rica at the age of 39, Figueres was one of the first elected leaders to create a national development strategy based on the tenets of sustainability. He also is known for pioneering the linkage between sustainable development and technology.

At the conclusion of the first day, Dialogue attendees moved back to Thunderbird’s home campus to give a last toast to the original Thunderbird Pub, an integral part of student life since its construction in 1971. The historic pub was part of one of the original WWII aircraft hangars, which was dismantled earlier this summer. A new pub will be opened tomorrow, November 11, inside the recently renovated Thunderbird Tower. 

The 2011 Thunderbird Global Business Dialogue is Thunderbird School of Global Management’s first attempt to hold a signature international business conference. Held at the Renaissance Glendale Hotel and Spa, this “Davos in the Desert” brings together more than 95 world-class speakers and panelists and 1,000 participants from 50 nations. For more information, please see