As companies embark on growth and transformation journeys, keeping governance at the core of sustainable business, the board is also seeing innovations. This is driving the need for specialised skills and experiences.

The ability to insist on high levels of governance; the push to clearly articulate and drive a stated company culture; and the willingness to not insist on growth at any cost and an ends-justify-means approach are three key areas worth highlighting for board members, says Rajiv Krishnan, MD and CEO, Ma Foi Strategic Consultants. But he adds that other areas of expertise also exist.

Board members should keep in mind that this is an era of fast-paced disruptions that also present significant opportunities. Santosh Kumar, Partner, Deloitte India, says, “Climate crisis, waves of pandemic, macroeconomic shocks, geopolitical conflicts, social unrest and technological advancements are forcing changes in business priorities and redefining the future of every aspect of work and life.”

What worked in the past may no longer be the recipe for continued success, he says. Competitive advantages will shift as business models adapt to new market realities, and the core capabilities that made an organisation distinctive may no longer provide any differentiation.

Krishnan says a director or an independent director must be an expert in one or two areas and this expertise must be maintained and developed over time. “This is not as easy as it sounds in an ever-changing world where one is frequently tempted to push strategies that have worked in the past without factoring in changes in context, executive capabilities, environmental changes, etc.”

Is this a short term or a more ongoing shift?

Krishnan says a director or independent director has to be the voice of reason and the touchstone of integrity in addition to everything else that he or she may bring to the boardroom. Pliable boards and pliable directors have been the bane of organisations worldwide and one or two sane voices have saved many a firm rushing headlong to its doom.This ongoing innovation is essential to future-proof organisations, says Kumar. It is important to define the kind of innovation that drives growth and helps meet strategic objectives. Companies that have invested in innovation have delivered superior growth and performance during crises. Boards will need to champion such innovation to set their organisations apart in a crowded marketplace. The board members have to play a key role in providing strategic direction and oversight.He says to drive the innovation agenda, the board has to select a diverse set of individuals who have skills beyond the traditional criteria, such as industry experience and financial acumen. Boards are now seeking individuals with a demonstrated ability to think creatively, adapt to change, anticipate trends, and foster organisational culture that encourages innovation. Additionally, boards are increasingly considering diversity in terms of age, gender, ethnicity, nationality and cognitive styles to ensure a broad spectrum of ideas and viewpoints are represented.

“Effective boards are future-oriented and have the willingness to challenge the status quo. In today’s world, having at least a few tech fluent members on the board will help guide and accelerate the innovation agenda. Innovation-driven boards can guide organisations in various areas including strategic vision, corporate culture, talent management, new product development, customer experience, technology adoption, sustainability, risk and compliance management,” Kumar adds.


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