Five Focal Points of the 2011 NACD Board Leadership Conference
- Instant technology. Throughout the conference, speakers discussed the importance of instant technologies, such as social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) and cloud computing—particularly the need for directors to be aware of these products in order to provide effective oversight. In fact, during the “Reshaping the Risk Agenda” session, Chuck Noski’s (vice chairman of Bank of America and director of Microsoft) three areas that will transform risk oversight at the board level all related to the increasing pervasiveness of technology: the “consumerization” of technology, cloud computing, and the increasing sophistication of hackers.
- China. Multiple sessions referenced China and the increasingly global marketplace. From futurist Edie Weiner to Honeywell chairman and CEO David Cote, speakers urged attendees to adopt a new perspective regarding fast-growing emerging markets. Specifically, Cote encouraged directors to view China as a “partner, competitor, and supplier.” During NACD chairman Barbara Hackman Franklin’s panel on “Doing Business in China,” the discussion extended to intellectual property rights.
- The new consumer base. Political pollster John Zogby fascinated conference attendees with his lunchtime session on “The Way We’ll Be.” Having examined the American consumer for the past two decades, Zogby recommended that directors be aware of the new generation of consumers—the “global citizens.” Born roughly between 1979 and 1993, he said that this generation communicates and identifies themselves in a far different manner than the baby boomers.
- Flexibility in business strategy. KPMG’s Mary Pat McCarthy noted that directors should know that the “unimaginable does happen.” To ensure long-term success, business strategies should be flexible enough to quickly adapt to the constantly evolving business environment. Edie Weiner advised directors to take note of the “carrots and sticks” in their businesses—observing whether short- or long-term gain is rewarded.
- Recruit for the future. With these rapidly changing technologies, emerging global markets, and new consumer bases in mind, boardroom composition should reflect a set of directors that can meet future needs. During a panel on “The Next Generation of Board Leaders,” Ralph Whitworth (founder of Relational Investors LLC) suggested that boards recruit for both current gaps in necessary skill sets, as well as the gaps they expect three to five years down the road.