Members of the 2018 NACD Blue Ribbon Commission challenged directors to improve situational awareness in the boardroom. Among other recommendations, they urged board members to keep finding ways to tap into fresh, unconventional thinking in order to improve oversight of the risks and opportunities posed by disruptive forces and events, including, but not limited to, the seismic shifts in the way we live and work that are being accelerated by new and emerging technologies. CES®—“the largest and most influential technology event on the planet . . . [and] the proving ground for transformative tech”—is essentially a one-stop shop where directors can gain that situational awareness.
CES® veterans, including a cochair of the 2018 Blue Ribbon Commission, have several tips for fellow board members about how to get the most out of the event:
- Step outside of your industry. In an NACD poll of public- and private-company directors earlier this year, over 60 percent of respondents said their boards’ tendency to focus on known risks (those that management has already identified) is a significant barrier to understanding and overseeing disruptive, atypical risks, including those related to new technologies. Kathy Misunas, a director at Boingo Wireless and Tech Data Corp., had this to say about her attendance at CES® in 2018: “Even if you are not affiliated with what is considered a consumer business, you do serve customers [who] will continue to expect innovation. . . . One of the benefits of being at CES® is being away from daily routines and taking the opportunity to observe and just let your mind cogitate [on] the possibilities.”
- Use the power of peers. Says Jeff McCreary, board member at Benchmark Electronics, “CES® can be an overwhelming show, so attending with a group that is focused on what matters most to you makes it worth it. . . . The opportunity to network with peers is invaluable.” NACD’s CES® Experience program is designed for directors and features small-group tours and debrief sessions where attendees can discuss what they have seen and learned with fellow board members.
- “[Don’t] be afraid to ask the dumb questions.” According to Maureen Connors, board member at Fashion Incubator San Francisco and a former director of Deckers Brands, that’s “the best advice I’d give to anyone coming to CES®.” Kelvin Westbrook, a director at The Archer Daniels Midland Co, Camden Property Trust, Mosaic Co., and T-Mobile and cochair of the 2018 NACD Blue Ribbon Commission, agrees. “While touring the large exhibition floors, there are ample opportunities to interact with, ask questions of, and hear points of view from leaders [making] technological advancements happen. These perspectives may differ from those discussed in the boardroom setting.”
The 2018 NACD Blue Ribbon Commissioners asked board members to reflect on this question: “Am I as personally prepared as I need to be to tackle the responsibilities of a director in the current business environment?” Says Westbrook, “Director education needs to go beyond the boundaries of the boardroom. By taking the opportunity to see a wide variety of new technologies and innovations firsthand, we will be better informed to participate in discussions and better able to appropriately challenge management—and fellow directors—about whether our organizations have the skills, agility, and nimbleness to respond to what’s coming.”
Kathy Misunas shares additional details about her time at CES® 2018 in this NACD blog post. Read more NACD blog coverage from our 2018 visit to CES® here, and watch video highlights from Day 1, Day 2, and Day 3. Registration details for NACD’s 2019 CES® Experience program can be found here. Visit www.NACDonline.org/disruption for more findings and recommendations from the 2018 Blue Ribbon Commission.