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  • Anne Rodda

Tomorrow's Board Diversity: The Role of Creatives

“This White Paper brings to light a topic which is often neglected: the role that creatives can play on boards.  In our experience, directors who have a range of diverse and creative talent, capabilities and knowledge bring different perspectives to decision-making, planning and board culture – that will likely enhance an organisation’s performance, as well as better represent the stakeholders.”

Kirsten Patterson (KP), Chief Executive, New Zealand Institute of Directors

As our Covid-19 restrictions loosen and we are charged with rebuilding our business models, our ears prick up at all of the talk about reframing a better future.  #Buildbackbetter and similar sentiments are on all our minds. Every organisation has been challenged to think and act more creatively than perhaps ever before in our working life.  We logically and intuitively know that business-as-usual is at our own peril.

Boards have challenges ahead and alongside the traditional responsibility for risk and assurance must boldly imagine a new future.  They must therefore ask themselves if they have the best-equipped people around the board table to envisage the necessary transformational change.

Our just released paper “Tomorrow’s Board Diversity: The Role of Creatives”, endorses the need for diversity of age, demography and upbringing, then adds a new and timely suggestion: recruiting creatives on to our boards.  We suggest that leaders from the arts and creative industries possess the imagination, savvy commercial ingenuity, resourcefulness and EQ that will allow boards to revolutionise their organisations.  Surely creativity is one of the key competencies all board members and leaders need now to imagine new paradigms and unshackle the restraints of the past and old ways of doing things. 

The concept of diversity of thought has been gaining traction in New Zealand and international board rooms – not only addressing the aversion to ‘group think’ but signalling a growing awareness that a range of perceptions will allow greater opportunity for cross-pollination.   Divergent and critical thinking is needed to solve difficult challenges, and creatives are well-placed because they have the innate ability to think outside the box and challenge convention.  They intuitively look for ideas from the depths of the unconscious and work at the edge of potential.   

We consulted widely when preparing this paper and received input from many on what they have seen in practise. In reviewing the literature on the topic we were surprised at how little had been written on this particular aspect of diversity. As a result, this White Paper explores all of these concepts and dives deeply into what creatives can bring to the table. We conclude that boards that invite blue sky thinking and diverse perspectives are wise, but the two dimensions of board culture necessary for success are Composition (recruiting the right mix of governors that possess a relatable knowledge of the business and fresh outlooks) and Culture (fostering open-mindedness through active listening). A reminder of the value of that second element – being willing to listen to others perspectives – is one of our key conclusions.

Individuals with a foundation in the creative arts bring imagination and diversity of thought to the board table.  If the governance culture is in place to embrace their perspective, then the discussions can be far richer and the decisions more deeply nuanced and successful.

To read the full paper, click


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