The modern society we live in has many benefits. Life expectancy and well-being have steadily improved for many: health and education being important building blocks. Most would agree that progress has been 'good'.
Paradoxically, life has become more complex in some quarters, and answers to some everyday problems remain elusive. The human response to complexity—dissection in search of 'truth' and understanding—has not helped. The reductive assumption that the sum of knowledge of the parts explains the whole is helpful in science, but in social science it fails. Companies (boards, in particular) are a case in point. The pursuit of a single truth ('best practice') is about as helpful to understanding how boards work as dissection studies of body parts is helpful to understanding how humans interact or experience life.
The problem is that when boards are dissected and individual elements are studied in search of answers about how boards work, the subject of research is no longer the board. Thus, the very essence of the socially-dynamic entity (the board) being studied is lost. As a consequence, any conclusions cannot, by definition, be representative of what the board as a whole is, does, or might contribute.
If we are to understand how boards work and to discover any relationship between boards and business performance, boards must be studied holistically: both in situ and in action. While every situation considered by a board is (to a greater or lesser extent) unique, emerging research suggests that some patterns can be discerned if the empirical data collected from within the boardroom is abstracted. An important dependency appears to be the decisions made by the board when it is in session. The quality (and, therefore, the potential impact) of board decisions appears to be associated with the quality of social interactions between directors and qualities of the directors themselves, as they seek to fulfil their duties. These qualities and social interactions are the subject of my doctoral research, currently before the examination panel. I look forward to sharing the results of this work, here and elsewhere, once the examination process is complete.
Thoughts on corporate purpose, strategy and governance; our place in the world; and, other things that catch my attention.