I have just come back from a CSR briefing with senior executives from a well known Hong Kong listed company. There were only men in the room. They asked me a lot about future governance structures in the wake of the recession and I told them that I thought good governance in the future might actually mean creating a Boardroom that utilises the contributions of people with different backgrounds, experiences and perspectives in an effective way so as to avoid the bad decsions that led to so many corporate failures. In my view, organisations need to develop senior managers that leverage differences in the backgrounds, perspectives and aspirations of people. They need to recognise the contribution that a diversity of perspectives makes to generating new ideas and new ways of conducting business in a transparent and ethical way.
Managing effective companies in the future means promoting inclusion and creating an environment where all differences are valued. For a business, managing diversity is valuable because it means an organisation gets to bring a broader set of perspectives to decision-making. If some different perspectives and values had been present on Boardrooms over the past few years we may not now be in the situation we are. In the future, my prediction is that decision-making processes are going to have to be both more transparent and also more inclusive. The most successful organisations will focus on embedding principles of diversity in the corporate culture and management systems. But that diversity will not only come from within the company, it will also have to come from empowering a wider range of stakeholders and taking their views into account when formulating policies and making decisions. Diverse stakeholders will become an important part of governance structures.
And, by the way, the men in the room all agreed!