When you bring together more than than 200 of the most powerful world leaders for a conference, getting them all to agree is anything but easy. But that's the unenviable task the organizers of the two-week long United Nations Climate Conference face in Paris.
Only time will tell if the negotiations, which end on Friday, will be a success. But business leaders may want to take note of how big a role the details can play in a constructive dialogue.
The responsibility to foster a spirit of cooperation among world leaders in every aspect of the climate talks fell to Laurence Tubiana, France's top climate change envoy. According to a New York Times interview with Tubiana, she and her staff pulled out all of the stops to ensure that the latest round of climate change negotiations wouldn't result in failure, as did the 2009 conference in Copenhagen.
The Copenhagen Summit went down in history as a case study in how not to run a conference--according to an NPR correspondent, the two weeks of talks were "chaotic from the start." One possible culprit: the poor hosting skills of the Danes.
At least two post-mortem research studies on the conference, according to the Times, blamed hour-long security lines and bland food for setting a disgruntled tone among conference attendees. Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen didn't help matters either, starting the conference off on the wrong foot after it was revealed that his office sent a draft treaty to a select group of "important countries," irritating those countries that weren't deemed influential enough.
Meanwhile, Tubiana is approaching the Paris Summit with the flair of an attentive hostess, rather than an iron-willed politician. Some of the must-haves on her list of necessary touches: lots of lamps in meeting rooms to create a sense of soft lighting, and regular dinners with the powerbrokers from each country (including a gourmet menu of duck confit, boeuf bourguignon, and French wines).
According to existing psychological research, it appears that Tubiana may have the right approach. Employees find indirect light generated by lamps or other lighting fixtures more soothing than a sterile overhead light. Although office workers around the country are still waiting for the day that five-star French food becomes a regular part of the lunch menu.