How is the diversification of board members evolving businesses?

When you think back to what a typical board of directors looked like some 20 years ago, you are likely to have a picture of a handful of serious looking, suited and booted men, sat around a mahogany table! And this was indeed the representation of most company boards…back then. ...

However, todays board of directors are practically unrecognisable, with increasing numbers of businesses realising the value of diversity in their work force and of course in the board room. For example, non executive director vacancies are no longer framed as the perfect position for retirees, instead they attract a wider range of candidates including women and younger individuals.

Changing Times
We’re living in challenging and changing times and businesses are recognising the need to stand out from the crowd.t. The famous quote – “If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got”, rings very true here.

There are many who may argue, why change what’s working? And to clarify, this is more about being ahead of the times, prepared for the inevitability of change and being able to quickly adapt and respond in the face of change. Businesses able to evolve is inevitably what will enable businesses to thrive.

Just look at how quickly new technology advances are emerging, seemingly out of nowhere and how many big brands haven’t made it through. With such unknowns in our midst, the most sustainable business approach is to be prepared to be unprepared and have a diverse workforce to quickly respond with wide ranging perspectives and innovative solutions.

And even more advantageous is the ability for companies to predict future trends and get ahead of the times. There is far less opportunity to succeed with a work force which thinks and acts in exactly the same way.

Defining Board Diversity
When a company has a varied work force, the company dynamic has huge potential for a significant shift towards having the edge in the evolving landscape of businesses in the age of technological advances. Diversity isn’t just about gender, age or ethnicity. It is of course all these but encompasses far more and the key is the celebration of difference - culture, competencies, backgrounds, skills, experience, philosophies and values.

The board holds great responsibility for directing the future of the business. What would a board of individuals with similar backgrounds, similar approaches and similar views deliver? How would they respond to a challenging situation?

Benefits of a Diverse Board
With diversity comes different beliefs, attitudes, thoughts, ideas, approaches, solutions…the list goes on. Tapping into this allows a board to drive businesses through the toughest of climates and unforeseen situations. Therefore, the following benefits are inevitable when diversity is present in any company work force and even more so when present at board level.

Mirrors a Company’s customers and clients
The world today is diverse. Since the rise of the internet there are more and more cross-cultural interactions than ever before. As such, surely a board should mirror what is present in the ‘real word’? After all, how can one respond to real world problems with a group who are not representative of such a situation?

Improved Decision Making
When a board is faced with challenging situations requiring risky decisions, would a group with similar opinions and views explore as many possibilities or just the same ones? Would they all just agree very quickly? Might they miss an opportunity to make an even better decision? With different perspectives, a diverse group of individuals will likely bring a various concerns and discussions to the table, igniting healthy debate and sparking new discussions. As a result, the potential for new avenues to be explored is significantly increased, leading to the potential for more robust and thorough decision making to take place.

Innovative Solutions
The fact is, if you want innovative and fresh solutions to problems, a group of similar individuals will struggle to achieve this objective. New approaches require new thinking and new thinking is best uncovered by disruption of the status quo, through healthy discussions from a wide range of perspectives.

People from diverse backgrounds will generally provide these varied viewpoints, igniting new possibilities and bringing forth new ideas and solutions.

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