What changes when you consider governance for the next 1000 years

Governance is not new but when the thinking emerged that we needed oversight the world was less complicated.  It is not that we can wind back time. We know that new governance will be built on the best aspects of everything we have thought and created so far.  Whilst we will take the foundations of the original thinking and by adding in learning and wisdom of where we have got to, we acknowledge that this is not going to be enough to get to governance to be fit for the next 1000 years. But the question remains, how will governance going forward be different? We know instinctively it will be and there are three principal reasons why, which are to be unpacked later.

However, we must build on the original ideas of governance that were about finding the north star and purpose.  We must keep a core requirement that a Directors role is to question if the North Star is still the place to be heading towards.  We must build on the thinking that we must continually steer a course to the north star and the Directors are responsible for short and long term adjustments on the journey.  These two foundational stones, north star and journey, are solid.  We can take the best of c.20 century thinking as pillars which includes ideas such as checks and balances that we are making the right adjustments on our journey and that our vessel is in the right order, and indeed the right vessel, to be able to continue the journey. However, just applying the thinking of foundations and pillars ignores the facts that we are now in a complicated, highly interdependent emergent complex and adaptive eco-system and we have to be better ancestors.  

What changes when you consider governance for the next 1000 years

1. We left a long time ago a market where my value, purpose or mission had no other dependencies or dependents.  Value chains were popularised in 1980/90s but by 2020 we became fully emersed in eco-systems.  Our north star may be shared but also closer or further than others in our eco-system.  Indeed we can have very different north stars from our geographically diverse dependent suppliers and customers who are not aligned to our direction or journey.  We are however dependent on them for data and for products/ services. The complexity of high interdependency in our market has build efficiency and brittleness at the same time. Brittleness means less ability to adapt/ change and we can be steered off course, not by our actions, but by the automated governance closed-loop system we have built.  The emergence of complexity within the systems is beyond one persons understanding and therefore we need to find new ways of bringing data to Directors to help make better judgement/ decisions and deliver governance.  

2.  We have to recognise that the economic prosperity that we enjoy and many of our companies, has been built on free earth resources with the ability to not worry, cost in or be concerned with the long term effects.  As we recognise our impact on our earth we also can see that the next generation cannot journey on the same path as previous generations including ourselves. We, together with our grandparents and parents, have burnt that path. We have used the resources without due care for generations to come or left so much waste that the same journey would be toxic.  Therefore we have to add to governance, far more than ESG and become more proactive in being good ancestors. To be good ancestors Directors have to be held accountable and responsible for actions.  To do this we have to have better oversight and governance which is not more of the same, but something new as your decisions must follow you and not be left at the door of the company you left. 

3. Transparency on the providence and lineage of data.  What we report on, how we report, how we make decisions, what the outcomes of our decisions are, is dependent on data.  This data is data that helps us improve our judgment and therefore we have to find ways to test and secure the data’s lineage and providence. We have to be able to share data and decisions so that we can improve, not at our own rate but, at an exponential rate where all humans can contribute to better outcomes for our children.

Where am I going with this, what will a board meeting look like in 2025?

Clarity is reached by fabulous discussion and debate. Thank you to Peter Crow and Robbie Stamp