Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Three Views to Keep Board Directors Evolving in Exponential Digital Age

Today’s digital board directors need to be both broad and deep, insightful, foresightful, and innovative. 

The corporate board as one of the top leadership pillars plays a crucial role in overseeing strategies and leading changes and digitalization. Adopting a different paradigm is like changing the glasses and new possibilities continue to emerge. Those who look through the lens of the previous industrial era see their own reality very differently from those who leverage the lens that the new era has crafted. Thus, the board directors need to learn and master the multitude of digital views of the business and understand the exponential digital age profoundly.

The futuristic view of running a digital business: Today, BoDs as the directorial role needs to play an important role in both envisioning and supporting a long-term business vision of organizational development. Because they need to steer their organization toward the uncharted water or blurred territories with unprecedented uncertainty and complexity. Driving the business forward is extremely difficult. You have to look into an unknown future and attempt to define the landscape with its risks and opportunities. If the company has a clear vision, everything starts moving in the right direction. Hence, the vision thing needs to be revisited when the board oversees the dynamic business strategy periodically. If the leadership team can clarify the vision which defines the "perception" of the organization, and design a good strategy and execute it well, it can achieve the high-performance business result for the long term. Clarifying vision is often difficult as it requires the alignment at the most senior levels, such as the board level, and it needs to link to the overall strategic imperatives of the company. Given that articulating a vision includes a coherent and powerful statement of what the desired future state can be and focuses on common goals, everyone must have the same definition of the future state. Therefore, board directors need to have the futuristic view of running a digital business and provide guidance about what core to preserve and what future to stimulate the business progress toward.

The historical view of getting the lesson learned: Many BoDs are seasoned executives with enriched experience and deep understanding of existing business issues. So, besides the futuristic view, they can also share invaluable lessons in the past from time to time. Without taking a breath to look back, plowing on to the next big thing before completely pulling all resources or running multiple simultaneous changes can be risky sometimes. Looking back can teach you valuable lessons and become well-prepared for the journey ahead. The rear mirror is the tool to make sure we understand where we are, any immediate gaps or dangers that make the forward view unrealistic. The past is in view that also allows us to recognize possible conflicts that could approach from where we have been. Keep in mind though, your windshield is larger than your rearview mirror for a reason. We must see where we are going; we also need to see what is behind us, but not at the cost of losing our visibility forward. Too often, looking at the past too long or too much inhibits forward progress. Keep your focus in the direction of your destination and only glance at the past necessarily to stay aware of where you have been. By focusing forward, we are able to more accurately judge the coming curves and obstacles in the path of digitalization.

The digital ecosystem view for expanding digital horizon: Digital ecosystem is just like the natural ecosystem, with the full spectrum of lights and colors, and keep the dynamic balance of order and chaos, patterns and diversity. Thus, the digital lens has many dimensions, such as socio-cultural, socio-technical, socio-economic, organizational, scientific, and philosophical, just to name a few. In order to succeed in today’s fast-changing digital business dynamic, harnessing the power of ecosystems is critical. Everything is interconnected and the business ecosystem becomes more interdependent and dynamic than ever. The digital businesses ecosystem can be perceived through the lenses of sociology, psychology, the economics of education, the anthropology of cultures, economics, organizational and communication sciences, poetical art, and so on. In addressing the emergent problem situations and working with their relevant digital systems, we have to learn how to recognize the limitations of the perspectives, methods, and tools of the traditional management disciplines. The digital board directors need to have the interdisciplinary understanding of the business, frame bigger thinking boxes, to work not just within the box, but across the multiple boxes, and approach problems via multifaceted way, technically, scientifically, philosophically, psychologically, and sociologically. Because dealing with the significant challenge of digital transformation requires accelerated digital mindsets, leveraging multidisciplinary knowledge and insight, taking an end-to-end response and a structural approach.

Today’s digital board directors need to be broad and deep, insightful, foresightful, and innovative. Because the digital paradigm shift is reshaping our thinking and recasting the way we view ourselves, the systems of which we are the part of the environments in which we live, the way we work and solve problems. The board needs to zoom out to capture the full picture, and zoom in to catch the important issues, look back, when necessary, and look forward with the focus to steer the organization in the right direction and lead change steadfastly.


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