Boards and Governance

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The Best of This Week

  • Read Time: 2 min 

This week’s must-reads for managing in a digital age: What the U.S. is getting wrong about the race for powerful AI, why putting culture front and center when managing is important, Facebook faces cryptocurrency hurdles, and why sports analytics fail in the playoffs.

It Pays to Have a Digitally Savvy Board

Companies whose boards of directors have digital savvy outperform companies whose boards lack it: Among companies with over $1 billion of revenues, 24% had digitally savvy boards, and those businesses significantly outperformed others on key metrics such as revenue growth, ROA, and market cap growth. Companies can improve their boards by knowing what characteristics to look for in existing and new board members, managing board agendas differently, and cultivating new learning opportunities.

Game-Changing Strategies for Corporate Boards

  • Read Time: 5 min 

The process of recruiting members to a board is often mistaken for the actual onboarding. Much is at stake in terms of legal and fiduciary responsibilities, but relatively little attention is paid to creating the conditions within the board to extract the distinctive knowledge of its new members. Three strategies can help boards do a better job leveraging the unique expertise of each board member.

Taking Stock of Corporate Risk-Taking

  • Research Highlight
  • Read Time: 6 min 

Research shows equity incentives introduce bias in executive recommendations and strategic planning. To counter this, boards should consider three key steps in assessing corporate risk.

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Why the Influence of Women on Boards Still Lags

Research indicates that the reason women aren’t making more rapid inroads on corporate boards is that few have reached the most influential board leadership positions. Although more women are on boards now than 10 years ago, very few have been promoted to a post that would give them influence beyond their seat at the table.

The Social Responsibility of Business Is to Create Value for Stakeholders

  • Read Time: 6 min 

The old story of business says that maximizing shareholder profit is goal number one. The new story says that shareholders matter, but not more than other stakeholders — which include customers, suppliers, employees, other financiers, and the communities in which companies operate.

AI in the Boardroom: The Next Realm of Corporate Governance

Business has become too complex for boards and CEOs to make good decisions without intelligent systems. Just as artificial intelligence helps doctors use patient data to make better diagnoses and create individualized medical solutions, AI can help business leaders know more precisely which strategy and investments will provide exponential growth and value in an increasingly competitive marketplace.

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The Downside to Full Board Independence

High-profile accounting and corporate governance scandals have resulted in significant changes in the structure of corporate boards of directors, in particular the development of independent boards in which the CEO is the only employee director. The downside: Independent board members may not understand the business well enough to make optimal strategic decisions.

The Board That Embraced Stakeholders Beyond Shareholders

Few companies have come right out and said that they serve stakeholders beyond their shareholders. But in 2015, the board of Sweden’s Atlas Copco set the bar for sustainability by including a statement of materiality and significant audiences in its annual report. Atlas Copco’s Statement shows how a company’s board can protect managers in the face of pressure from short-term investors so they can make the long-term decisions necessary for a sustainable strategy.

How Boards Botch CEO Succession

The strategic importance of CEO succession is indisputable, and the elements of effective succession planning have long been known. So why do many boards plan poorly for CEO succession when the cost of failure is so high? Research finds three key reasons: Hiring criteria are not aligned with strategic needs, boards are reluctant to antagonize the incumbent CEO, and many boards aren’t developing the executives below the CEO and top team.

The Paris Agreement — It’s Down to Business

The Paris Agreement signals the end of the fossil fuel era, shifting the entire world economy — with huge implications for business. Governments in 195 countries committed to climate goals, but the scale of the transition required is such that governments can’t do it alone. We need business to fully commit, too. And the mechanism for this commitment can be found in business by-laws and constitution statements.

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Environmental and Human Rights Assume a New Urgency for Boards

The G7 summit in June of 2015 and the G20 meeting in November both upheld the idea that businesses have a responsibility to respect environmental and human rights principles. As such concerns take center stage, business leaders must recognize their role in navigating the new regulatory environment. As environmental and human rights risks rise in importance, board members are at risk of being seen as negligent if they fail to ensure that their companies comply with the G20/OECD Principles and the standards to which the Principles refer.

Why Boards Must Look Beyond Shareholders

Shareholders are just one audience a board of directors considers when making decisions for the corporation. Others include employees, customers, suppliers, and NGOs. In the face of limited resources, directors must make choices regarding the significance of the corporation’s many audiences. Given obligations to multiple stakeholders, the authors suggest that boards of directors issue an annual “Statement of Significant Audiences and Materiality” to identify the company’s significant audiences.

When Consensus Hurts the Company

How do managers “decide how to decide”? Boards and management teams often try to gain consensus, but that’s not always the best course. Research offers insights into when consensus building is the right way to go and when it isn’t — and how leaders can determine the best form of decision making for a given situation. “By prompting a rule on how the decision will be made — by unanimity, majority or delegation — you can significantly influence what will be decided,” note the authors.

Joining Forces: Collaboration and Leadership for Sustainability

In the 2014 Sustainability Report, new research by MIT Sloan Management Review, The Boston Consulting Group and the UN Global Compact, shows that a growing number of companies are turning to collaborations — with suppliers, NGOs, industry alliances, governments, even competitors — to become more sustainable. Our research found that as sustainability issues become increasingly complex, global in nature and pivotal to success, companies are realizing that they can’t make the necessary impact acting alone.

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