I had the privilege of attending the inaugural Gender Diversity Summit in Auckland yesterday. Approximately 90 delegates—the majority of whom were female leaders from business and academia—assembled to discuss diversity in company C-suites and board rooms. It was an interesting day, and I'm pleased I responded to the invitation to attend. The full participation of women in the senior echelons of business and governance is a topic that needs robust research, critical thought and vigorous debate, to ensure we understand what we are trying to achieve and, crucially, why. If such rigour is not applied, the outcomes of these types of initiatives will naturally reflect the wishes of the most eloquent protagonists.
That leads me nicely to the point of this post. An opinion piece caught my eye while reading the New Zealand Herald in the cab to the Summit venue. Peter Lyons, an Economics teacher at St Peter's College in Epsom, Auckland, wrote a very good article about the important role of critical thinkers in society. Lyons asserted that corporate-speak and populist techno-babble has taken over our society, yet it does us no good. He went on to say critical thinkers are crucial to social and economic progress, because they rise above the status quo and they ask the hard questions like "why?" and "what if?".
Lyons' article was as refreshing as it was timely. Having re-read the article a couple of times, and pondered the discussion at the Summit, I've come to realise we have a rather large blind spot in our society. We naturally drift towards conformity and populist viewpoints, lest we be ostracised by offering alternative views. Somehow, we need to overcome this tendency if our society is to grow and develop. But how? At the risk of grossly oversimplifying things, one option might be to turn to Mr Lyons' profession for help. If philosophy was reintroduced as a core subject in our high school classrooms—to teach the emerging generation how to think critically—I suspect a broader range of options would be debated and better decisions would ensue. And that can only be good for social and economic progress.
The motivation for my blogpost on 24 October—in which I asked where thought-leadership for strategy should lie—was to gather feedback to test a couple of ideas lurking in the depths of my PhD considerations. Several people have since contacted me directly to share their thoughts, which has been very helpful. Thank you to those people!
I also posted the same question on the Boards & Advisors Group over at LinkedIn, in an effort to broaden the pool of people who might like to comment. Many have, and a great conversation has emerged. I suggest you have a look there if you are interested in this topic, because a solid discourse is unfolding right now...
Thoughts on corporate governance, strategy and effective board practice; our place in the world; and, other things that catch my attention.