What a difference being different makes

By Darya Rusanova on 04. December 2018

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Four colleagues and friends walk into a bar. It's Friday, it’s pub quiz night and they're feeling lucky. As a collection of the top minds in astrophysics, who could blame them? Their IQs combined could almost make four figures.

They get the drinks in and get comfortable. Round one starts well. As does two. They're feeling smug. The topic turns to The Simpsons and they struggle. Even more so when Jane Austen makes an appearance. By the end of round ten, they're feeling deflated and crawl into eighth place.

Sure intelligence is key when it comes to securing the free bar tab and bragging rights that winning a pub quiz brings. But when birds of a feather flock together, they don't leave much room for thinking outside the cage.

Which is why diversity is key. For pub quizzes. For teamwork. And especially when it comes to the board room

There's still a huge misconception with boards that strength lies in similarities. But this ‘stick to what you know’ mentality is causing cracks. The best decisions aren't being made. Opportunities are being missed. And problems are being smoothed over, but not properly solved.

The quiz winners? The biologist, marketing director, art historian and software engineer at the next table. Not only did they vary in profession, but also by gender, age, variety of life, education and experiences. Everyone brought something unique to the table.

And that something, is what boards are lacking. The skill set gap needs to be closed, and the doors of growth need to be opened.

Let's look at the numbers. McKinsey completed a detailed study a while back that's filled with impressive figures. They discovered that companies with diverse boards generated ROE that were 53% higher than their less diverse cousins. Can't really argue with that.

But in order for a board to truly burst out of its groupthink bubble, it needs courage

Bags and bags of it. It's one thing knowing that change is needed. But it's another thing to actually change.

Cue the Chairman. They need to take the reins here. As we discussed in a previous blog, strategic recruitment is key. They need to not only widen the brief to headhunters, but to take a chance on the ‘wildcard’ candidates. To not just choose the one with the most industry experience. Or that went to the same Uni as them. That's the safe option

And the benefits of this bravery? Well, they're pretty endless. We're not just talking about good dynamics, it's financial performance, the quality of decision making, reputation and the ability to innovate. Boards shouldn't be afraid of being different. They should be afraid of being the same as everyone else.

The only questionable thing about bridging the skill set gap is… why is it taking so long?

Download our new eBook 'Bridging the skill set gap on boards.'

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