Corporate Leaders and Executives Reflect on New Skills Needed for a “Brave New World”





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Oct 09, 2018
by Kwasi Gyamfi Asiedu
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Corporate Leaders and Executives Reflect on New Skills Needed for a “Brave New World”

Fourth program of Salzburg Global Corporate Governance Forum considers how corporations should react to new challenges Participants of Brave New World: How Can Corporate Governance Adapt? outside Schloss Leopoldskron

Rapid, high-speed, whistle-stop: these are just some the ways the changes happening in our world can best be described. No part of the world or industry will be left unscathed by these rapid changes.

Changes in governance, politics, technology and society are taking place at a blink-and-you-miss-it speed. The skill to look ahead has never been more valuable.

This October, around 40 corporate leaders and board members of leading global businesses convened at Schloss Leopoldskron in Salzburg, Austria, to deliberate on how corporations like theirs can face these changes in the latest program of the Salzburg Global Corporate Governance Forum.

Brave New World: How Can Corporate Governance Adapt?, a three-day program held between October 4-6, featured plenary discussions that focused on artificial intelligence (AI) and its place in corporate governance, diversity on boards, defining organizational culture and the monitoring role of a board. Participants were also afforded the opportunity to discuss these issues in further detail in smaller breakout groups.
On artificial intelligence and worker displacement, one participant said while the AI revolution could not be rolled back, it remained important for managers and directors to consider its impacts on individuals and the social institutions that support them, the company’s reputation, and how workers could be retrained and deployed differently.
There was also a breakout discussion on the #MeToo movement, gender equality, and the role of boards where participants shared their own experiences and how they dealt with it. “‘Me Too’ is not just about sexual impropriety but also the distribution of power,” one participant said. Participants also discussed case studies, including the collapse of the Weinstein Company following the allegations against and subsequent arrest of its former boss, Harvey Weinstein, on multiple charges of sexual assault and sexual misconduct.
Diversity was also a hot topic at this year’s Forum. Companies work in diverse communities and have different customer bases, so it is essential to have a diverse talent pool. Diversity also prevents groupthink which would affect the quality of decisions taken by management and boards. Participants explored several ways to improve diversity in the workplace and on boards. Quotas, as mandated in countries such as Norway and Germany, were noted as a proven, effective way of accelerating the pace of gender diversity on boards. “It is not only about gender diversity, generational diversity is also important,” another participant remarked.

As the program reached a conclusion, participants were asked to consider the question posed in the program title: how can corporate governance adapt? If the discussions in Salzburg are anything to go by, a brave new world of corporate governance requires transparency, diversity, adaptability, flexibility, and a commitment to tackle social challenges. As one participant summarized, “We don’t know all the answers, but we need to be bold enough to walk into the future.”

The Salzburg Global program Brave New World: How Can Corporate Governance Adapt? is part of the multi-year series, the Salzburg Global Corporate Governance Forum. The session is being held in partnership with Shearman & Sterling LLP and CLP Group. It is being sponsored by Bank of America, Barclays, BNY Mellon, Elliott, Goldman Sachs, and Microsoft. More information on the program can be found here.

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