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The future board

“If the rate of change on the outside exceeds the rate of change on the inside, the end is near.” (Former CEO of GE, Jack Welch)

Never has a truer word been said than in the case of Kodak, Xerox and Blockbuster. All three were household names that once enjoyed huge commercial success, but are now better known for their crushing failure to innovate. Corporate casualties of the relentless march forward, Kodak developed the world’s first consumer digital camera, but failed to launch it because management feared the effects that digital would have on the film market; Xerox invented the PC, but never bothered to exploit the opportunities they had because management thought digital would be too expensive; and Blockbuster lost its lead on the movie rental market because management failed to see why they should change their strategy.

If the above lessons tell boards anything it is that failure to innovate can result in bankruptcy and companies cannot perpetually make money relying on the same technology or by refusing to evolve with the market. Boards must identify the changes that could help them to build sustainable success. The business world moves fast. Geo-political uncertainty, increased transparency, climate change, cyber threats and digital transformation and disruption are all things that companies need to be able to adapt to quickly. Many of the most successful businesses of recent years are those that have developed entirely new business models, using technology to transform the way in which they work rather than simply automating their existing processes. The structure and functioning of boards have not changed at anything like the pace of the organisations they lead, however.

The future board needs to move beyond the ‘automating existing processes’ stage and commit to inclusive and sustainable success, board structure and membership, board approach and processes and board development. Future success will be dependent on boards being agile enough to handle new risks, adapt to technological change, attract top talent and provide a ‘moral compass’.

On Day 2 of this year’s conference, a keynote panel discussion moderated by Karl George MBE, Managing Director of The Governance Forum will take place to consider what the board of the future might look like. Panellists, including Colin Mayer CBE of Said Business School; Jane Fahey, TransferWise; Susan Hooper of Uber and ICSA Policy Advisor Chris Hodge, will reflect on the kind of mindset boards might need to succeed in the future and how boards are adjusting to the rapidly changing world around them. Join Karl, Colin, Jane, Susan and Chris at 10:10 on 10 July.

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