There is a big problem with company boards and I want to talk about it.
For good reason, the meetings of large companies are very serious affairs, they are vital to steer the company into the near future and address the core issues of today and clear of the digressions of the past.
They are there to mitigate risk, look at mergers and dividends, key staff hiring and compensation, to deal with compliance issues, and above all else act in the interests of Shareholders.
They are insurance more than inspiration.
For this you need storied players; adults, wise folk who know how things should be done. People with wood on their office walls.
Invaluable wisdom from those who have really understood how to steer companies to positions of great success over the years. CFO’s , COO’s, Legal Counsel, mighty rational minds, with an average age in the S&P500 of 62.4, and fast rising.
They are typically staffed with people rather keen to stay on the board. The desire for difficult discussion is limited when people have generally reached retirement age. You’ve got your lives work as a legacy, why try to get noticed for the wrong reasons? What could possibly make you want to look foolish talking about the future, or things other people don't see.
I’ve long written about the need for wise minds and experience in all industries, but I do wonder if there should be more input from a generation of people who’ve seen the world change as they grew up. One only has to see painful Senate hearings with Zuckerberg to see the issue.
Now, not all rules of business have changed, but some things have.
And by being rooted in the past there is a huge blind spot to the future and to the consumer.
The CMO is the only role in a company that brings in thinking about the consumer and only 2.6% percent of minds on Boards have any marketing experience.
The Chief Digital Officer used to be a rather small role, focusing on IT as a cost center, but now companies Digital Strategies are increasingly combined with their business strategy, what technology makes possible, what it threatens and what it means are vital, yet only 19% of Fortune 1000 have a CDO on the board.
The solution at one point was a shadow board, here younger minds, more curious souls, more provocative people could raise challenging questions about future vision, but these have never really taken off, and most seemed more like “bring your kids to the board meeting day” than something with teeth.
Having sat in meetings with execs from car companies who laughed at Tesla, Banking VP’s who joked about Venmo, TV leaders who even NOW don’t see TikTok or YouTube as relevant, one wonders if this can change and what it will take.
How can we combine worldviews, motivations and ensure boards can both be insurance AND inspiration and can become places to discuss the potential for what companies can make happen.