“Digital diversity” amongst the Board of Directors and Executive Management

June 2018

Digitalisation has become a collective term to represent all kinds of changes. New technologies are thereby facilitating not just the automation of existing business processes, but also the development of completely new business models and even more customised products and services. It’s a whole new ball game.

New platforms are being introduced to bring private investors and borrowers together, along with new electronic currencies, digital insurance solutions, smart power supplies, and individualised products instead of mass production. The economies of scale enjoyed by “Goliaths” are being wiped out overnight by versatile “Davids”. New technologies are enabling the production of custom-made items – so-called “lot size one” – with negligible added costs and lead times. Virtual purchasing groups are making up for the cost advantages gained through large purchasing volumes. Even the financial power required for research and development is being offset by the networking and innovative ability of countless startups.

In closely observing a significant number of organisations – from established companies through to startups – we are finding an increasing discrepancy between the flexible thinking of the digital natives and the corporate world, which tends to stick with traditional business models. The new generation thinks flexibly, operates in networks and embraces digital advancements. With minimal financial outlay – completely free from the traditional structures and stages of value creation – these companies are developing smart business ideas which have the power to blow established plants, which have existed for generations, right out of the water. In the same way, Google was founded by two students just twenty years ago and has already become one of the most valuable companies in the world.

In our opinion, the key to success for companies and for society lies in linking the “old” world with the “new”. Companies must face the digital transformation head on and develop the ability to adapt their business model to the rapidly changing demands of their customers. They need to assimilate the startups and the unconventional thinking of their digital natives. To do this, it’s not enough just to recruit a few digital natives into the IT department or corporate development. Rather, what is needed is the appropriate “digital diversity” amongst the Board of Directors and Executive Management. It needs people who understand both the “old” and “new” worlds and can build bridges to unite the different cultures and drive the company’s digital transformation forward at a strategic and operational level. This isn’t a question of the function or the age of the individual decision-makers, but of the “digital diversity” of the board as a whole.

“Digital Diversity is a success factor”

In many of our recent executive searches, we have been able to strengthen companies by adding board members and executive managers who have precisely these bridge-building skills. Here are four examples of that:

  • The addition of the CEO of a leading IT service provider to the Board of a financial services provider.
  • Filling the CEO role of an internationally operational industrial company with a candidate holding many years’ experience in the multi-channel marketing of an ICT company.
  • The appointment of a CFO with proven experience in the startup environment to a medium-sized industrial company.
  • Evaluation of the board of directors of an insurance company using an experienced CEO from one of the world’s leading technology providers.

Digital diversity and business transformation are core issues for us: as a versatile, dynamic Swiss Executive Search Boutique, with added leadership consultancy, we want to take our share of responsibility for the successful development of companies in the digital age. Witena can be your sparring partner and has the enthusiasm and skills to support you in the further development of your company.