A View from the Future
Sunday night’s keynote speaker challenged attendees at the 2011 Board Leadership Conference to “take the long view” of their organizations and use the board to discuss the “game changing” issues that may reshape a corporation. Edie Weiner, a leading futurist and consultant, spoke about “A View from the Future.” She addressed many issues but stressed that new and emerging technologies will continue to have massive if not disruptive affects on our organizations and the way we do business.
Weiner saw the current economic climate not as a recession but as a transformative period driven by technology that will continue to vex corporations. While companies may not be able to predict the changes ahead, boards of directors must focus on preserving the long-term viability of their organizations. Weiner said that the “real work of governance is to maintain an overarching vision.” Seeing into the future is not difficult, not easy, according to Weiner. But that’s what independence means and what the board is supposed to do.
Boards must contemplate the complex—but not complicated—environment today and the methods to navigate it. While directors are responsible for oversight of the organization, they should not focus on the day-to-day operations of a corporation but how to position the organization for future success.
Critical to the board’s mission of staying focused on the long term, directors must understand what is rewarded and punished in an organization, or as Weiner put it, understand the “carrots and sticks.” If employees are punished for long-term thinking or focus, it is a guarantee that those individuals will pursue short-term gain. Alternatively, when employees are rewarded for long-term thinking it will be more beneficial to the company in the long run.
Weiner provided much to think about at tonight’s opening keynote speech. Stay tuned to the NACD website for more updates on the conference.