Are directors at risk of becoming stranded assets?

By Paul Smith, Co-founder & CEO // 

The term ‘stranded asset’ is likely one you’ve heard in reference to things like technologies becoming obsolete, newer companies eclipsing incumbent ones or the changes in energy production and fossil-fuel resources. But it’s also a term that I believe can be applied to people.

In this changing landscape of boardrooms and directors, it could apply to you. When you consider the widely-accepted definition of a stranded asset as being an investment that has been deemed unable to meet a viable economic return, it might seem like an unfair comparison. However, it’s an important one to make – especially if you hope to have a long, successful career as a non-executive board director.

Stranded assets occur when something comes in and disrupts their status quo. Thanks to thinks like artificial intelligence (AI) and other advancements in technology, disruption is something that is definitely starting to be experienced within the boardroom. So to avoid becoming a stranded asset, it’s imperative to be accepting of this, as well as flexible to the changes that are happening in your industry.

Active v Passive

First, accept that there is no room for passive passengers. If you’re not already trying to upskill yourself, now is the time to start. This is the best way to ensure you’re still of benefit to your board, because you’ll gain the knowledge needed to remain valuable.

Accept Agility

You also have to adopt an open mindset. As a board member, you must understand and accept the shifts being seen on an industrial and social level in order to make better decisions that will benefit the organisation, rather than hinder it. These shifts and changes are impacting everything in the business model, from finance and legal to marketing and governance, and if you embrace them quickly, you will have a much easier time introducing them to the boardroom.

Grow, Personally!

Companies across the world are beginning to see things from a different perspective. One example is the focus shift from physical health and safety to ethical behaviour, mental health and well-being. Employees are finally being seen as one of the most important stakeholder groups, and many organisations have started to recognise the importance of putting their emotional and mental health at a higher priority. As a director, you can encourage your own personal growth to suit this shift by working on your emotional intelligence and implementing a healthier workplace culture.

The Evolving Board Director

A board directors’ roles and responsibilities are evolving and developing to include a lot more nuance than what has been seen in the past. It’s likely that AI will begin taking care of the more black-and-white decisions that a boardroom has to make, leaving directors to the emotive side of things such as dealing with stakeholder trade offs, making crisis management decisions and other moral judgement calls. To remain useful in the face of AI, it’s worth considering upskilling your current abilities to include a better understanding of the more complex side of technology.

Broadening both your boardroom and your mindset also allows you to see the benefits of diversity in every aspect; from the more prominent issues such as gender, age and ethnicity to the lesser known, like variance in skills and experience. Every director on your board has things they can both learn from and teach to others, and it’s acceptance of this diversity that will propel your board into more modern times – without leaving you at risk of becoming a stranded asset.

The message, keep learning, learning and learning!