Reimagining the Boardroom for an Age of Virtual Reality and Artificial Intelligence
The chair’s job will inevitably change — it will involve presiding over all kinds of interactions, physical meetings being just one of many.
Boards challenge their executives to get with the digital age — but many haven’t followed their own good advice.
They’re starting to use more digital tools to gather information, post questions and comments, connect individuals in remote locations, and present ideas more visually. (Examples include collaboration platforms such as MeetX, Virtualboardroom, Diligent, and Boardpad.) But there are plenty of other tools they could be using to do their jobs better — technologies that have proved useful in other contexts.
Through virtual-reality technology, for instance, boards could gain a deeper understanding of their companies and the value they create. In a gaming context, the idea is to put on a headset and enter a different world, try on a different perspective.
By using the technology to play the role of customer, investor, product developer, factory worker, and so on — making the kinds of choices they must make — board members could see the business (somewhat literally) from various stakeholders’ vantage points. It would be an antidote to the insularity that so many boards are criticized for, and a useful complement to the simulations and war-game tools that help with scenario planning and anticipating competitors’ moves.
So why not incorporate artificial intelligence into boards’ decision making?
AI tools free up valuable meeting time for discussions about the most important decisions and trade-offs. They allow humans to focus on what they do best — asking the right questions, using their judgment, inspiring others — while robots attend to the diagnostic and analytical tasks.
Outside stakeholders are beginning to demand greater visibility into boards’ operations, in light of the many well-publicized governance failings related to culture problems, poor risk management, and fraud. Increasingly, investors are expecting boards to match or surpass their own ability to collect and analyze information.