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Staying ahead of disruption — 3 actions for board members

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Small group of people listening to speakerAsk five people what disruption means to them and the odds are you’ll receive five different answers. I recently moderated our virtual board member exchange where our listeners heard best practices that corporate boards should consider implementing in today’s business environment (listen to a recording of the call here). To no surprise, each of our five speakers approached the topic in a unique way, yet all of their great insight held a common theme: corporate boards need to embrace change.

Data Analytics and Artificial Intelligence A great starting point to embrace change is to have a clearer understanding of a company’s performance and bottom line. This is why a number of our speakers stressed the importance of data analytics and artificial intelligence. The purpose is twofold: a clear understanding of data allows for boards AND audit committees to more effectively understand a company’s performance and deliver insights to management. Transparency will lead to dialogue that is impactful and drive improved results.

Adaptive Governance – Innovation on the Board’s Agenda It is not an easy task to govern and lead a company through disruption. It requires striking a delicate balance between the fiduciary responsibility of the board and execution on behalf of management. This is why each of our speakers emphasized the importance of dedicating time for strategy discussions. We’re not referring to carving out twenty minutes on a meeting agenda. This is on a much deeper level where you can think about innovation from outside-the-box. It is also important for boards to let management understand that they don’t need to come to the table with a fully baked idea. In a way, management has to come in with a sense of vulnerability. “We’re thinking about these ideas, what are your perspectives?” This is more effective because when they throw all of their eggs into one basket, you’re running with a higher sense of risk. Say option A no longer works because there are new tariffs in China, there needs to be an option B and C for discussion. There needs to be backup plans in place and boards can convey that message.

Dedicate Time to Building Your Knowledge around Technological Disruption Technological disruption is at the forefront of change for boards and management alike. However, it is not always easy to stay up to date on the latest trends, products and solutions. In addition to scanning newspapers, TechCrunch, Wired, and websites on a regular basis, I’ll leave you with three techniques to consider:

  1. Connect with venture capitalists, analysts, entrepreneurs and technology influencers in your industry. They are never okay with the status quo and are always looking for the next great innovation. Follow them via social media and listen to their podcasts. Great examples of tech podcasts include Recode Decode, Masters of Scale and the WSJ Tech New Briefings. Consider following tech influencers like Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, etc. These are professionals that have dedicated their careers to staying ahead of the technology curve.
  2. Dedicate time to walk the floors of major technology conferences and tour Silicon Valley with your management teams. Having a feet on the street perspective allows you to engage with founders and representatives of companies on a deep, personal level as well as learn about the emerging trends. Examples include CES, CTA events and other tech symposiums.
  3. Join Networks with your peers to exchange ideas and build relationships to stay informed on key trends and best practices from other boards. Examples such as NACD as well as Grant Thornton’s Insight Exchange – our peer networks created for board and C-Suite members.

Boards set the tone with management for the entire organization. Embracing the changes needed to stay ahead of the innovation, technology and economic developments will empower the entire organization to evolve faster and succeed.


About the author

Nichole Jordan Nichole Jordan
National Managing Partner, Markets, Clients & Industry
Twitter: @NicholeJordan26