Due to the complexity, uncertainty, ambiguity and volatility of the digital age, the directorship in any organization must have the ability to inspire, guide, and motivate top management team toward accomplishing shared visions and goal. The level of the board accomplishment may vary but the essential competencies will remain the same, BoDs need to be insightful, influential, strategic, and highly effective, and the board as a whole needs to be able to create the cohesive vision, holistic view, and transform from compliance-centric to performance-driven. This also implies that Boards of the future will need to work much more closely and collaboratively to take the digital journey from good to great.
Pinpoint the blindspots of the strategy: The contemporary board plays a crucial role in overseeing business strategy. The strategy is definitely a different beast nowadays, with increasing speed of changes, many organizations are inundated with tactical tasks and daily operational duties, they don’t spend enough time on scrutinizing the long term strategy and identify disastrous blind spots in order to make a smooth business transformation. The BoDs as the business critic can provide excellent feedback which gives the top management accurate information to improve; great questions to self-aware; and keen insight to gain the in-depth understanding of the digital ecosystem. Strategy blind spots are created by the lack of future-driven mindset, that means the management probably wouldn't know where is the weakest link in the business and how to invest in new capabilities for their business, even if the organization thought there was any value justification for making the investment. The traditional strategy is the view via considerably narrow frames with static timelines, but digital strategy view is broader to oversee the business ecosystem and has to embrace the emergent digital dynamic with continuous disruptions. There are both blind spots in strategy formulation and execution, BoDs need to present strategic wisdom to pinpoint pitfalls in strategy management and keep track of strategy-execution continuum. In a world of well-defined problems, directors are required to exercise leadership influence over volatility, manage uncertainty, simplify complexity, and resolve ambiguity in the 21st-century digital environment.
Minding the cognitive gaps for setting the top leadership tone and expand innovation lens: Generating a high-performing Board is a question of appointing the right persons to Boards which implies "inclusiversity.” It's the diversity both from a cognitive difference, differentiative expertise, or functional perspective. Boards need to have qualified candidates who bring cognitive diversity to a Boardroom. Anyone who is selected to sit on a corporate board should be fully qualified to bring the fresh insight to mind the cognitive gap. Some of these credentials are proven experience in executive leadership, entrepreneurship, strategy development, technological vision, risk and crisis management, global empathy, international experiences, and some degree of financial literacy. The board needs to extend its innovation lens via cognitive difference. An insightful board built on the diversity of thought more often does not necessarily come from the diverse physical identity; but from one’s thought process, cognitive difference, learning habit, recombinant capability, diverse experience or skill sets, etc. Nowadays we live in complex digital systems, it takes 'different'' thinking, uses the right tools and leverages effective process in GRC practices. Diversification is a component and in some cases a very good initiation of value creation. If it builds on and across supports other assets, people start to think, understand, learn and work together leading to better decisions and better performance, and thus transform the business from good to great!
IT savvy: Information is the lifeblood and one of the most invaluable assets in digital businesses today, technology is the disruptive force in digital transformation. Given how applying IT is becoming so intrinsically important to so many different enterprises, digital BoDs need to become information friendly and technology-savvy. The board is neither the programmer nor the implementer, but they should gain the strategic insight about IT. The foremost thing for BoD is to realize that IT is strategic; and as such, it should be a distinct part of the business strategy telling how to maintain compliant and secure and how to enable business growth. Digital transformation represents a break with the past, with a high level of impact and complexity. IT is a key enabler of future capability and a critical aspect of continuing business activities in organizations. Therefore, an IT-friendly board has to ensure management and governance are an interdependent and complementary discipline that are both enabled by high mature digital IT, and a technology savvy Board will welcome IT leaders to share insight at the big table and empower IT to drive change and digital transformation.
Good boards advise, but great boards inspire; good boards take compliance lens to ensure nothing is broken; great boards set the digital leadership tone to break outdated rules, and build digital principles; good boards have peer relationships, but great boards present creative tension, you know it when you see it. Great boards are heterogeneous, inquisitive, intelligent, effective, innovative and influential. All of these require thinking, requiring asking questions, to sharpen “directorship” for getting digital ready.