Digital impact on Boards at Dutch Board Innovation Event

How to deal with constant change and how to foresee a future that lies beyond what we can see today? How do we recognize the difference between optimization and disruption?

Un-learning and re-learning as the new critical skills for board members was explored at an event with the Board Innovation network, PIT, in Netherlands in May 2017, organized by PIT Partner and certified international board member Fennemiek Gommer (INSEAD IDP-C).

The event included speeches by Weikamp CEO and former Amazon executive Piet Coelewij and Digoshen Chair and board professional Liselotte Engstam (INSEAD IDP-C) on the specific challenges and opportunities of digitalization for (executive and supervisory) boards.

Digoshen, with the Chair Liselotte Engstam and the CEO Katy Caroan, was invited by the PIT partner Fennemiek Gommer and the founders Karin Doms and Hanske Plenge, to share experiences and present how digitalisation changes board work at a PIT member meeting. Fennemiek and Liselotte met as they are both part of the INSEAD Network for International Board Members, IDPN, and both are passionately interested in helping companies renew and grow. Several IDPN members also joined this PIT Café meeting.

Some highlights of Digoshen’s visit and the PIT member meeting can be found in this video.

The key takeaways from the event were;

  • Boards still have a way to go on both competence as well as adapting the board work (see referenced survey & report)
  • Ensure the right competence on boards – include digital/tech experience, continue to un-learn and learn, for example through involvement with startups
  • Fence time for more strategy/innovation board work at most board meetings
  • Help executive management see the reality and speed of change – be customer obsessed, build knowledge/data, ensure innovation for short & long term, align the culture and transparency
  • Make it personal – be a role model, also as a board member trail blazing into digital

Prior to the meeting, the members of PIT were offered to participate in the Digoshen survey “Digital Capability and Leadership survey“, which gave them all an individual feedback report with recommendations. The collective outcome of the board members’ organizations and leadership situation was shared at the meeting.

For the day of the PIT Innovation Cafe, we all went to Zwolle to visit one of Europe’s most digitised companies, Wehkamp. The CEO, Piet Coelwij shared his personal insights as CEO at Wehkamp and as a board member of several companies, as well as his previous experience at Amazon and Philips. Piet shared that he believes companies need to be customer obsessed, that boards need to help companies increase the innovation race, and that boards need to help the companies create more fluid organizations.

We then listened to Digoshen Chairman Liselotte Engstam, who shared why the effect of digital belongs on the board agenda, as the change for organizations becomes exponential. She shared some personal examples on how board work is changing and also some insights from the Digoshen Digital Capability and Leadership survey around competencies and board actions, both from the PIT members’ input and from the European survey.

Finally, Liselotte shared examples of actions around the three leadership areas in which board members and leaders need to excel in the future as Sense at Scale, Involve to Innovate and Align the Actions.

Following this, we discussed at several round tables and shared experiences on the subject, where the CEO Katy Caroan and the Chairman Liselotte Engstam facilitated one table each together with prominent members of PIT. Digoshen shared a document including a high-level view of the results from the survey by the PIT members, and also included an exercise that leaders and board members were encouraged to do.


The exercise is based on the three important areas which include to sense at scale, to involve to innovate and align the actions, and to invite the leaders to explore what you as a board member can contribute to or improve in each area, and how that would improve the board work and the company.

Further insights regarding survey results, as well as examples of actions companies and boards are taking to improve their innovation and digital capability and leadership, can be found in the extended research report by Digoshen. The referenced report includes information based on a broader European board member survey, where the results were very similar to the PIT members survey results.

We at Digoshen are grateful for the invite and the insights shared at the PIT cafe and look forward to continuing our collaboration with the PIT innovation board network, as well as Caracta with partners Fennemiek Gommer and Anne Mieke Eggenkamp. For more information and takeaways from the event, please visit the PIT website to learn more.

For further insights on the survey, and what actions companies and boards are taking to improve their innovation and digital capability and leadership, you can read the extended research report referenced above. Should you want further inspiration you are welcome to join the Digoshen Insight Platform.

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