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Blind Spots that are Impeding Directors and Executives in their Roles

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The Chartered Governance Institute UK & Ireland and the Centre for Synchronous Leadership (CSL) has highlighted the dangers of business leaders having blind spots and puts forward a convincing case for businesses to get on the front foot with emerging trends and issues.

It provides a deep understanding of the systemic issues that are causing business leaders to be insular, or ‘Bubble Bound’ to coin a phrase used in the report, and uses quantitative data to show the benefit of being more open to difference.

The report looks at how exclusion occurs in a boardroom setting, offering insight into the issues that commonly made it onto the boardroom agenda pre-COVID-19, and those which did not, and highlighting the problems which arise when boards and executive committees are not mindful of the impact of exclusion. It is the first part of a three-part series that will also look at boardroom dynamics and composition.

The main report findings are as follows:

  • Prior to COVID-19, many boards and executive committees failed to ‘engage with the unfamiliar’.  18% did not look ahead to the medium or long term; 58% did not look out for potential blind spots.
  • These boards are now more likely to be on the back foot – overwhelmed with the volume of issues to cover and less likely to believe they are prioritising effectively.
  • Since COVID, many of these same organisations appear to have fundamentally changed their behaviour, engaging with their future selves and blind spots more proactively and not just in response to emergencies. The question is, will this change be lasting?
  • Boards and executive committees that engaged with ‘unfamiliar’ issues before COVID and were prepared to flex their agenda accordingly, were also more likely to engage with people outside of their bubble. They were more likely to seek input from staff at all levels, reach out to external experts and to value diverse lived experiences.
  • The results of this study suggest that engaging with people outside of their bubble can help boards and executive committees to prioritise issues more effectively and stay on the front foot.

Peter Swabey, Policy and Research Director at the Institute says:

“This report provokes us to get out of our bubbles, notice how we are instinctively excluding, and reconsider whether the criteria that we use to make decisions are fit for purpose. Pre-pandemic, technological strategy and issues of a holistic nature, such as organisational culture, talent management, diversity and inclusion, sustainability, broader social impact and other ESG issues, struggled to make it onto the agenda in any meaningful way despite the importance of these issues being increasingly recognised at the top of organisations. The pandemic and increasingly prominent ESG agenda show that companies simply cannot afford to operate in an insular bubble or have a disconnect between those issues that are recognised as important and those that are prioritised.”

Justine Lutterodt, Managing Director at CSL and report author concludes:

“The inclination to operate within a bubble is not unique to the business sector. It is a fundamental part of how we are wired as human beings. We have a limited amount of time and attention to process huge amounts of data and are conditioned to associate group membership with survival. The cost of being ‘Bubble Bound’ is growing, however, as the world becomes more interdependent. Every stakeholder who has been a casualty or beneficiary of an organisation’s ripple effect can use social media to influence other stakeholders. Plus, there is increased public awareness of interdependence and an appetite for a better society, which means that how businesses exclude matters more than ever before. Exclusion influences brand, shapes how a company engages with risks and opportunities and, ultimately, determines performance. The pandemic has shown that organisations which adopt a more mindful approach have a clear strategic advantage.”