Ben Kepes is a Canterbury-based entrepreneur and professional board member.
OPINION: I was chatting with a friend last week. Said buddy is on his second gig as general manager. On both occasions, he led high-growth organizations and our conversation focused on the role of a board and the value it can bring.
My coffee mate suggested that since councils operate on a collective basis without a single individual being able to make a decision, they are by definition dysfunctional. Thus ensued an interesting conversation about governance in general, and collective wisdom in particular.
On a related note, my Twitter timeline seems to be perpetually filled with tweets and retweets from people who have an unhealthy preoccupation with anything even remotely connected to Elon Musk. At the risk of sounding blasphemous, it seems that in our time, where adherence to formal religion seems to be declining, we are introducing new messiahs to follow.
* The Teenager’s Gamble: Chess Cheating Scandal, Sex Toy and Elon Musk
* Elon Musk loses race to sew brain implants
* Musk cites whistleblower as new reason to leave Twitter deal
* US CEO posts crying selfie on LinkedIn, gets roasted online
* Elon Musk’s antics turn owners and would-be buyers against Tesla
* Elon Musk is a visionary – but he’s been missing deadlines since he was a kid
Of course, here in New Zealand, the general trend has been to find these false messiahs from various sporting codes, including rugby. And while I have no disdain for Richie, Dan, or Beauden, I would struggle to compare their exploits to walking on water or turning that same water into wine.
On the international stage, however, it seems that many people identify true innovators as their favorite gods. Steve Jobs, spearheading disruptive innovations in technology, was considered by many to be a god. Today’s example is Musk who, admittedly, has a penchant for making really big bumps in various sectors.
From Tesla single-handedly creating the electric vehicle category to Space X making space travel accessible and (relatively) inexpensive, Musk is undeniably a visionary, and one with an uncanny ability to instinctively know where the world is going.
Granted, he’s a visionary with no self-awareness and a penchant for saying the very wrong thing. But he is a visionary, nothing less. For the few organizations that benefit from a Musk or a Jobs at the helm of the ship, the role of a board of directors is one of compliance and control with little to do in actual corporate decision-making. ‘company. While I’m sure Tesla’s board spends a lot of time discussing how to keep Musk in check, it’s a safe bet they don’t have much to offer in terms of strategy. future of the company.
But what about the 99.999% of organizations that lack leaders who can anticipate the future and, through brute force, make a dent in the universe? How do these organizations chart a course, build a culture, and best leverage the opportunities available to them?
At the risk of bringing out the very obvious bias, which I have as a professional board member, this is where governance comes in. This is also where the wisdom of crowds shows its value. .
If you’re an organization with a genius in the driver’s seat, you don’t need a diverse set of perspectives and a thoughtful conversation about what the right things to do are. If, on the other hand, you are an organization run by an average human being with the requisite human frailty, you want a forum to leverage the diverse experiences, skills, and backgrounds on offer. This is where a consensus decision-making approach comes in. Of course, it may take longer to make a decision when said decision is based on reaching a point of consensus, but, all things being equal, the quality of that decision will be much higher for coming out of the crucible of the committee.
It is true that occasionally a board must make decisions based on a vote. But most top-performing boards consider this situation to be suboptimal and would much rather decide after a thorough conversation by tapping into the different perspectives or ask for more time and information before making a decision. Although a board of directors may be dismissed by some overconfident and totalitarian leaders as an obstacle to quick execution, it is a means of making well-considered decisions that generally stand the test of time.
It won’t be music to Elon’s ears, but it’s the truth and one that equally despotic and dictatorial rulers should consider.
Ben Kepes is a Canterbury-based entrepreneur and professional board member. It’s all about consensus.