By Paul Smith, Co-founder & CEO of Future Directors
Traditionally, boards have been composed of specialist generalists. These are ex-CEOs and professional directors who have a broad range of experience, rather than specialist or singular expertise. They may have come up through the ranks via a certain discipline, but even that tended to be legal or finance. Indeed, even your more specialist directors have been lawyers and accountants.
This is changing. However, like most diversity, it’s not changing fast enough for most boards to keep up with the changing face of the society in which we and they operate.
Before you turn off thinking this only relates to corporate boards, think again. This relates too ALL boards.
Why have I focussed on Customer Experience?
It’s easy to focus on rapid technology changes. However, there are more fundamental shifts that have been happening over the past few decades. Our brand loyalty, whether they provide us with products, services or a cause to support, is being eroded by choice, competition, disruption, transparency and ATTENTION.
According to Amon Woulfe, Founder of Collective Mind, “we are living in the midst of an attention economy“. We, human beings, are losing our attention. Attention is now our greatest competitive advantage and everyone wants it. If an organisation is to remain sustainable it has to maintain the attention of its customers (clients, donors, members, investors etc); engaging them and providing an experience that generates at the very least loyalty, and ideally advocacy. What better source of sales are there than your own customers?
So, what has this got to do with the boardroom?
Organisational strategy and risk management are two of the key responsibilities of any board of directors. No customers, no business. How can a board function effectively if not a single person in the boardroom understands the strategic and risk imperatives of CX? You can no longer rely on a single transaction and hope they come back.
I’ve spoken to several boards about this and interestingly, they are split on the need. On one side, some boards dismiss the need for any specialist directors (CX, technology, human resources etc), suggesting that the role of the board is too broad to include specialists in even key strategic areas. If that’s the case, they rank compliance above all else.
On the other side of the argument, boards I speak to see the risk of not having these perspectives and experiences on the board. How can they support and assess the work of the Executive without the appropriate knowledge in the room? When it comes to all the specialist skills, they look at their organisational priorities when deciding how to prioritise which skills to recruit.
I’m not suggesting a board is just specialists, like all diversity, it’s a balance, a mix of generalists and priority specialists. What’s interesting is that most customers are younger than your average board director and most CX experts are also younger. Another reason for younger people in the boardroom…
What do you think?