I just got out of a breakfast session the Institute of Corporate Directors hosted this morning at KPMG’s offices in Toronto. The title – Board’s Role: Directing for Digital Disruption – drew a capacity crowd of people who currently sit on or aspire to be appointed to Boards of Directors.
In true digital fashion, we were asked to sign up for an SMS-based polling service to allow the facilitator to collect audience input in real time. We were also asked to use the hashtag #ICDisrupt on any event-related tweets, all of which were to be displayed live on a Tweetwall screen behind the panelists. So far so good.
Here’s the “Wow.”
- 25% of the audience responded that their Boards had absolutely no digital savvy.
- 33% of the audience said the topic of digital and/or disruption rarely, if ever, came up in their Board meetings.
More like, “Seriously?”
I’ve written a lot here about the need to change Canada. There’s no question that entrepreneurs can and will play a significant role in shaping our country’s future. But the scale of systemic change and leadership required to ensure Canada’s businesses are globally competitive and future-ready needs to be directed from the top of our private sector.
As a colleague said as we were walking out of the session, “that’s a rosy view of how things really are.”
Boards have an obligation to their shareholders – not to lead, but to ensure those who are leading the organizations they serve are planning, staffing and acting in the best interests of their business. No company is going to be where it wants to be in five years by following conventional wisdom. And no Board is doing its job by signing off on any such plan.
Canada’s companies are in desperate need of pirate intrapreneurs – people who grasp the downsides of standing still; have the backbone to try something new; the courage to fail and then try again; and the nerve to run counter to the corporate hierarchies, processes and cultures that see such radical behaviour as a threat instead of the asset it can be.
Where are they? Who are they? And why aren’t we hearing from them?
Imagine where we’d be if Canada’s Boards were asking those questions every day.
——— Written by Rick Murray, former Managing Partner and Chief Digital Strategist at NATIONAL Public Relations, and now Managing Partner at SHIFT Communications, sister company of NATIONAL