• Jesper Beck

#1 There is a new hot ball in your courtyard - let's play !

Updated: Jun 26, 2018


In summary

  • Speed and democratisation have changed our business paradigms and have transformed the cosy job into to an exciting one

  • The dramatic increase in topics that reach the board calls for new ways or prioritizing and organising

  • The radical innovation ball has landed in the hands of the supervisory board




Good old days – or exciting new times ?

I am often met with a spark in their eye, when I speak with seasoned board members about the good old days. The time of stress-free meetings - comfortably seated, no major compliance tasks, no questions to industry outlook nor questions about the management’s growth plans. Rather a nod and signature before the mandatory “networking”. The cosy job – Someone had to do it !


However, to me the excitement and the spark in the eyes of the new breed of non-executives when talking about today's board agenda, provides me a much stronger smile and energy.


Their excitement stems from the opportunities for new business ahead not only “extended business” as in new markets but new business in the forms of fundamentally new business models and entering (or even forming) new industries.

Hence, no doubt in my mind - I prefer the excitement of today.


Speed and democratisation drives more topics to the board

As the ultimate leader of the company securing the long term interest of the owners- the supervisory board's job has widened significantly. Many mention the sometimes overwhelming burden of increased compliance as the most significant and dramatic change to the job.

Across the line, the number of topics that reach the board has significantly increased as a result of a much accelerated pace of change - and to add to it a much higher weight to each element.

The technological development is the underlying driver for the recent change of business paradigms.

By adding speed and democratisation to the business world technology has changing the default setting from predictable to unpredictable - and the known to the unknown.

When present at the same time, what used to be a minor risk element can be a threat to the very existence. Therefore, its natural that even more cases reach the board either due to risk, size or strategic importance.

There are no signs that the trend will curb, hence we need to look at how to prioritise and organise the boards’ work. One thing seems for sure - the current model won't last unchanged.

A new hot ball in the court – let’s play

When I see the aforementioned spark in the eyes, it's most often when talking about the new hot ball in the supervisory board’s court.

The new breed board members see an exciting opportunity (and duty) in bringing what used the be the CEO’s 5- or 10 year strategy plan – not only into the board, but taking action and responsibility for it in much greater detail. In this context, there seems no need to say that the plan is no longer a 5- or 10 year plan, but best exercised as Purpose + 1 year action…

There are multiple reasons why radical innovation has moved to become the role of the supervisory board, but most essentially it’s due to the strategic weighting of fending off – or better getting ahead – of entrepreneurs disrupting the very business we operate.

To be clear the tasks of core and adjacent innovation, stays with the the CEO and the organisation – whilst the radical innovation that challenge the business industry and/or significant size – ticks the boxes for the supervisory board’s responsibilities in terms of size, risk and strategy not to mention the ability to protect such initiatives from the organisations immune system.


Not all new…

When it looks all new there is a comfort seeing that two old matrix eclipses when talking about the boards’ responsibility for radical innovation.

Note: The “Not urgent” in this context is measured against daily operational issues.

So Mrs. / Mr. Chairman…

My call to you is to lead the change. Please stand up, show your leadership by taking personal action and responsibility to prioritise the focus on the future by adopting (and bringing) the paradigm shift to the supervisory board.

A wise man once said:

“Those who seek help achieve the most”

Hence, make time within the coming two weeks to seek inspiration from peers with that “spark” in their eye. I believe it will:

  • Make the compliance tasks easier to overcome

  • Inspire you when taking initiative to deal with the uncertain and

  • Increase the value of your company significantly


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