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3 leading directors tackle disruption, innovation and crises

At a recent AICD event, three leading directors, in conversation with Alan Kohler, tackled the big challenges facing Australian boards. Afterwards GUD Holdings director Mark Smith FAICD, Perpetual director Sylvia Falzon GAICD and JB Hi-Fi director Wai Tang GAICD shared their thoughts on crisis management, disruption and encouraging innovation.

“With respect to crisis management I think it’s very important that boards are well prepared in the first instance with knowledge and action plans around their own policies and procedures. That includes having a rigorous testing of their policies and procedures, as best as they can. I think that once you’re in the middle of a crisis, whatever type it is, it’s very important that you act swiftly and communicate clearly and efficiently to your various stakeholders. Most importantly you assemble the facts and have to come to a decision and a judgement as a board, because often in crises there is a judgement to be made around whether something needs to be elevated, or how it needs to be handled. And that’s where the board assists management by working very closely with them.”

“Disruption is now, I think, upon us in terms of all sectors. And I think as a board, it’s incumbent on us to be thinking about what’s actually coming over the horizon. And while there is time of uncertainty, I still think it doesn’t prevent you from thinking about how you can actually capture that uncertainty and look at disruption in a positive way. Often what we tend to do is think about disruption as to how that’s going to impact negatively on our businesses. And I think the way to often look at it is say where’s the opportunity for us to really embrace disruption and see how our business can actually improve.

And if I think about healthcare, healthcare is a sector that is clearly well-positioned for change around innovation. And especially when we think about how the patient or the consumer is going to want to drive outcomes. So the industry really needs to think about how do we engage with our patients of the future to see what services are they going to want from us and what information to make the better decisions that they want to make about their care into the future. So really it’s about thinking about disruption from the view of your customer or the consumer and trying to position yourself to say are we going to be able to meet their expectations. And the best way to do that is the process by I think now boards need to be engaged and way more networked than what they’ve ever had to be before.”

"I think boards should drive innovation through actually encouraging and supporting the management team to have the innovation culture and by inculcating that culture within the management team, then they will start thinking about testing and reinventing their business model. Secondly, I think that the board should also encourage and support management to set up systems that allow fast and rapid mechanisms to test new ideas or experiment with new ideas. That’s really important because without the board’s support, then the management team may second guess that innovation is not widely adopted or widely acceptable. I think that is a really important thing, having that real culture led by the board, to actually encourage more experimentation within the management or within the business.”

The AICD regularly runs courses and events for directors, aspiring directors and executives, covering governance and business best practice. Click here to see our upcoming courses in Western Australia.

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