Friday, December 16, 2016

A “Skeptical Board” to Advocate Innovation

A skeptical board is full of ‘Fresh Eyes’ and ‘Inquisitive Minds,” to see things differently.

The Corporate Board plays a critical role in business strategy oversight, monitoring execution, advising digital transformation, and setting tones for talent management. The boards are also transforming from compliance-driven to performance oriented to get digital ready. In practice, the board's role is to pull management out of the trees to see the forest; to understand the business landscape and how it will address it; to continue questioning on important issues where the management's answers do not make sense, and to show the constructive skepticism for brainstorming changes and advocating innovation.

Digital BoDs with the right dose of “doubt” are real critical thinkers who can ask deep questions: Asking good and pertinent questions is critical for governing changes and trigger innovation so the directors would have to be able to quickly assess any numbers and facts they are given, against applicable benchmarks and detect relevant hints for further questioning or confirmation. Critical Thinker BoDs do not just ask one or two random questions, they ask in a structural way continually. Because Critical Thinking implies the systematic methodology and logical analysis, and even the embedded creativity, employing and applying the criteria deemed appropriate by the thinkers involved, to arrive at the tangible and reproducible truth, either as the commonly accepted objective, or testable, measurable, and time-bound reality. Critical Thinking as an iterative process leads to a series of refinements based on learning and experience.

BoDs with positive doubt or skepticism trigger creativity and stimulate innovation: The constructive skepticism leads to creative problem-solving and innovative solutions. It often challenges conventional thinking as a sole path; adds the new perspective via intuition; removes reactive thinking and negative self-talk, and adds proactive interactions no matter what is the situation; eliminates stereotypical thinking and leverages intuitive listening to capture the important information for decision-making. Asking the right questions helps validate how thorough and deep the board is thinking about a particular issue; avoids group thinking and sets the tone for building a culture of innovation. It can also assess whether they consider various different perspectives. It's always about the questions, particularly to come up with the new perspective to solve a problem or address an issue.

A “skeptical Board” can capture business insight via deep understanding: As the saying goes: "if you doubt at first, doubt again." Doubt often encourages us to not simply accept what is told, but gain more understanding - that would be positive to avoid many common sense pitfalls. It means to have the courage to update the old rules or the outdated “best practices.” It also means to scrutinize the whole picture- to mentally connect all of the different components of a given problem according to their actual working patterns in order to discover the optimal solution to the problem holistically. This is how we transform the complex into simple, define specific solutions, stimulate commitment, and achieve better results. Knowledge is important but more than that is complete awareness of what is happening in the context, be skeptical of conventional wisdom. Once you do that, you use your ability to classify the elements and know their linkage and capture the insight to understand things thoroughly.

A skeptical board is full of ‘Fresh Eyes’ and ‘Inquisitive Minds,” to see things differently. The “skeptical BoD” is often someone who has a specialty in something but is not tied to the tyranny of expertise, so they can ask open questions and bring new perspectives for improving board dynamic and effectiveness.


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