Governance : the new black
Digital and data can be viewed as enabling and world-making; or as disruptive and world-changing. In other words, the philosophy of digital and data is as formative as tech can get.
We know it is hard to make sense of this virtual digital world, in the same way it is for us to sense the roundness of our earth when we only see the flat horizons or indeed grasp the size of our galaxy or scale the universe. The impact of digital is complex, ambiguous, dependent and uncertain.
The realisation of the impact of digital is not a science and right now requires judgment on behalf of leaders, pioneers and adventurers; as we as a society wrestle with the unknown benefits, complexity, compromises and problems digital life throws up.
The maturing of making everything digital means that we now have to understand and address a new culture, value system, purpose and governance; but when? Whilst there is no right time for everyone, as attention depends on the adoption to a specific market or sector, we are past meme and a trend is emerging. Here are a few that suggests that the timing is coming as stars are aligning.
Star 1. Black Rocks CEO, Larry Fink, last two letters (Dec 2017 and Dec 2018) to the market have been essentially; no more linear business plans and find a purpose or our money and focus moves on from you.
Star 2. The 2019 RoundTable, results from 150 leading CEO’s changes from shareholder return as a reason to exist to “your purpose is to create a sustainable ecosystem”
Star 3. Professor Dan Ariely new 2019 (irrationally predictable) work on how one corrupt person in a corporate creates far wider, deeper and more toxic cultural issues than we want to admit to.
Star 4. Brad Smiths (President of Microsoft) new 2019 book “Tools and Weapons” Dealing with ethics and how we have to change our mindsets
Star 5. Ben Horowitz (of a16z VC fame) new 2019 book. “What you do, is who you are” culture, ethics, data and complexity
When McKinsey publish a paper on it (2019) demanding emphy is the new black for leadership
What is the trend? culture and purpose are back in fashion, however this time there is immutable data, transparency, websites, citizens and technology to hold you to account. What you say is therefore open for everyone to see, inspect and act on. You cannot hide.
This means that corporate governance is coming in from the cold lands of compliance and tick boxes.
What is the implication? boards are about to change beyond all recognition and those who have worked to get to the top of an empire may find there is no empire to rule, or one they don't want to be held accountable for.
Leadership focussed on the universal values of caring, honesty, respect, responsibility and fairness are about to become critical business values which have to be delivered and proven each day. Digital and Data are changing everything.
Why read “What you do is, who you are”?
Ben Horowitz, the leading venture capitalist, combines lessons both from history and modern organizational practice with practical and often surprising advice to help executives build a new culture or identify what you bring to your culture.
In this context culture is defined as how a company makes decisions. It is the set of assumptions employees use to resolve everyday problems: and what are the implications of choice.
Ben uses the leader of the only successful slave revolt, Haiti’s Toussaint Louverture; the Samurai, who ruled Japan for seven hundred years and shaped modern Japanese culture; Genghis Khan, who built the world’s largest empire; and Shaka Senghor, a man convicted of murder who ran the most formidable prison gang in the yard and ultimately transformed prison culture - to bring out why culture matters (easy), what culture your choice and actions have (hard)
Obvious but who you are is not the values you list on the wall. It’s not what you say in company-wide meeting. It’s not your marketing campaign. It’s not even what you believe. Who you are is what you do, intended and unintended - and now we have data, this becomes a whole new game.