Governance at the Speed of Light

January 19, 2011

Linda Crompton, President and CEO, BoardSource

I have written here before about the importance of technology to the governance field – how technology is changing the way we govern. Every day we see new implications for leadership. In particular, the dominant presence of technology in younger people’s lives means that as young people begin to serve on boards, organizations will have no choice but to adapt.

The social network alone is having an inescapable impact in terms of how organizations communicate with others – links to Facebook, Twitter, and many others are essential. On that point, have you noticed our BoardSource group on LinkedIn? If you haven’t joined it, you should – it’s fascinating. (Ed. Note: You must first join LinkedIn, then join the group titled “BoardSource.”) A recent group conversation had the participants engaging in a lively discussion on – ahem – “Should we abolish the board?” Governance doesn’t get any more transformative than that! The comments have ranged from anger and frustration at disaffected and disengaged boards to criticism of CEOs who don’t want to endure oversight on their decisions or be bothered with developing the board. In between are lots of ideas and recommendations about how to effectively engage directors or trustees. Every once in a while, someone mentions the reality that boards are a legal necessity and that abolishing them could mean the end of the organization itself.

Exchanges like the LinkedIn conversation that technology makes possible are how, in my view, these solutions are created. Everywhere you look in the sector (and outside it too) are calls for new ideas and solutions to the challenges leaders face. I read in the Financial Times that Pierre Omidyar, the founder of eBay, has pledged $30 million for transparency efforts enabled by technology and $25 million to support mobile innovation that benefits people in emerging markets. Reflecting another transformative element – that of sector convergence – the Omidyar Network’s commitments include both for-profit investments and nonprofit grants.

One idea at a time; an elaboration of that idea; an opposing thought – this is how breakthrough thinking happens. Today, that breakthrough thinking occurs at breakneck speed, abetted by technology.

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