Thursday, October 20, 2016

BoDs as “Thinkingaires”: Harnessing Digital Thinking to Build a “Mindful Board”

The board needs diversity, more specifically the diversity of thoughts, or even more crucially, cognitive difference, to provide a perspective that goes beyond the gaps in board discussion.

Modern corporate boards play a significant role in strategy oversight and business advising and monitoring. Business understanding is a prerequisite for being a board member in the first place, and to add to that you need different members to have important cognitive difference/experience/ competence in many other areas. Most directors are seasoned executives with a variety of experience. While mindset is critical to being an effective director is sometimes often overlooked. BoDs with cognitive differences can make better decisions and heterogeneous boards are more open-minded and set the right tone for the culture of innovation.


Strategic Thinking: BoDs as top leaders in the business need to master strategic thinking. The main role of a board is to oversee strategy with the executive management. Strategic thinking is fundamentally about “keeping the end” in mind, help the business to achieve its vision via identifying barriers, advising strategy and monitoring execution. The BoDs need to gain deeply understanding about the enterprise in order to be a credible actor in the strategy dialogue. A board should be engaged in by scrutinizing the strategy, with regard to the strategic thinking, keep asking what’s happening in your market and what’re your competitors doing, what could make your vision cloudy and how to clarify it etc., along with senior management; the business can benefit from a 'Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats' analysis via practicing strategic thinking if one has not been performed recently. That could be a way of focusing the board and management back on some of the strategic issues needing to be addressed to strengthen and grow the organization.


Critical thinking: Critical thinking is the mental process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and evaluating information to reach an answer or conclusion. The real critical thinking challenges existing assumptions and conventional wisdom. Critical thinking is a basic form of organized thought specifically used to discover concrete solutions or implement concrete actions. The BoDs as critical thinkers can make constructive criticism about business strategies, identify blind spots and pinpoint potential pitfalls. It is the difference in thinking and perspectives that diversified BoDs bring to the table for enforcing critical thinking and improving decision-making effectiveness.


Independent Thinking": Independent thinking is just about making your own mind. We live in the world with the abundance of information, having the mix of signals and noises. Either at the board level or for any digital leaders or professionals today, Independent thinking becomes more critical in making sound judgment. One of the most crucial roles of boards is to practice independent thinking in a collective way and provide valuable feedback and deep insight (not rubber stamp) to the management team of the organization and help them leap the organizational management effectiveness up to the next level.

Systems Thinking: Systems Thinking is about understanding the interconnectivity of the parts and the whole. The BoDs as a group of senior leaders need to be Systems Thinkers as well, think of themselves as seeing the "bigger" picture, or the global outlook, as well as how their thinking may be based on a set of preordained principles. BoDs who are good at Systems Thinking can help the management team to expand their thinking, bring the interdisciplinary fresh perspective to the table, understand business situations from different angles, and solve problems without causing the new issues, and to ensure the whole is superior to the sum of pieces. A systems view of the world encompasses impacts and consequences of our thinking and actions. Interconnections and interdependence are distinguished, wise choices and decisions are made. Solutions are also made from a much broader and encompassing view that is not possible in linear thinking. So the wise BoDs with Systems Thinking can make the difference via coaching the management team to be mindful as well.


Innovative Thinking: The Boards of Directors are interactive change agents that represent the organization, stockholders, and senior management, they need to practice creative thinking, participate, or even lead in the area of innovation from outliers’ viewpoint, to see things differently, also encourage others to do things in a better way. Boards are aware of how an innovative culture can be important to the overall health of an organization, they should be asking the "right" questions, offering insights and encouraging participation at the top. The effective board brings together such a tremendous thinking, skills and experience mix that there are bound to be board members whose ideas could feed into new value creation. And more significantly, an innovative board sets the culture tone to build a high-innovative and high-performing business.


The board needs diversity, more specifically the diversity of thoughts, or even more crucially, cognitive difference, to provide a perspective that goes beyond the gaps in board discussion. They need to incorporate their unique viewpoint on people, innovation, GRC etc into their solid knowledge of overall business and technology. And the “Mindful Board” clearly has a role to play in all the major essential elements of making an enterprise successful.

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