How to get the board to think ahead

On the 9th of September, the Digoshen network ran a Live Exchange with a group of international board directors, and business executivves with board roles, on the topic “How to get the board to think ahead“.

The event was facilitated by the Digoshen team. We were fortunate to have Fennemiek Gommer, one of the founders of Caracta to set the scene and presented some interesting facts for the group.

The presentation focused around the need for boards to look into the future to anticipate challenges. Since we live in an increasingly complex world, characterized by shorted life cycles, businesses are required to shift from strategic planning to purpose and focus on a strong innovation culture.

Fennemiek also pointed to the need for boards to adopt robust tools to support them to think ahead, namely scenario thinking and back casting. These tools are better implemented if the board can adopt a “What if?” mindset, based on an attitude of learning and networking in order to be open to new insights.

We agree on the starting points – but would like to learn more about how to do it

The presentation was followed by a poll with the participants on there own situation, with the following results:

The participants where fairly positive on their current starategy, which was later discussed as potentially too positive to be realistic.

It was clear that the purpose and value at this time of disruption was a very important tool, even more important than the strategic plan when the boards where taking decisions.

Also the agility ambitions were closely anchored in the purpose and value, to accomplish the flexibility of the organization.

From the tools used by the board we could see that the forecasting , as well as observing, inviting outsiders and the traditional SWOT are still very important tools, and that tools like What If? And Back Casting could be further explored by the boards.

The poll shows that all of us agree on the importance of finding the balance between urgent and important matters, allowing for time to explore the future and most companies have a purpose that guides them. The challenge is how to stimulate the leadership and culture that is needed for future thinking.

The participants where then divided into two breakouts rooms to discuss how boards can develop their future thinking competences. These discussions had the goal to identify good practices with future thinking at board level.

Challenge the status quo

In the break-out rooms we discussed how future thinking needs to be facilitated by designing an agenda that allows for it, explicitly making room for insights that go beyond the current crisis, and by getting out of your usual location to free up your mind. We asked ourselves what is was that made us change our perspective and challenge our assumptions in other situations? Was there a pivot, an insight, a special reason that forced us to change our mind and challenge the status quo bias? We found that this catalyst could be both external, like new regulations or setting up regular dialogues with customers, and internal, like a new board member or introducing a challenger board composed of future talents. One good practice was for each board member to adopt 3 customers each – many of us wanted to immediately implement this within our own boards!

We also discussed at length the role of purpose and found that this could be quite different within different companies. Often a strong guiding principle in start-ups, more implicit in family-owned business and easily confused with vision, mission and strategy in companies that have been around for a longer time. Have you discussed within your board what your interpretation of purpose is, and whether the personal purpose and values of the board members align with the company’s purpose?

Anne Mieke Eggenkamp summarized the discussion in 3 major points:

  • the role of personal leadership, and how future thinking requires a growth mindset and shared learning in the board;
  • shared purpose and values as a prerequisite for building an agile and innovative culture;
  • encouraging you to experiment with the future thinking tools that are available, since they will help you to explore and design your future.

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Learn more from Digoshen Exploring Leaders

If you are a practicing board member or business executive with a board role, that want to find a safe ground to discuss the boards guidance of corporate renewal, we welcome you to join us.

find more here about our Master Programs  and let us know if you are interested in joining. You will meet several of Digoshen’s Impact Partners, all practicing board members, and several are thought leaders on the topic of innovation and boards.

If you cannot join the master program, pls find more and join our upcoming Open Digoshen Live Exchanges.

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This Post was also shared at the Digoshen Insight Blog

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