New Zealand Law Society - Report outlines diverse thinking boardroom culture and governance practices

Report outlines diverse thinking boardroom culture and governance practices

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Until diverse thinking directors are better respected and supported, the diverse thinking capability of New Zealand boardrooms will never improve, a report launched by the Superdiversity Institute for Law, Policy and Business says.

The Diverse Thinking Capability Audit in New Zealand Boardrooms 2018 has been written by Institute chair and Auckland lawyer Mai Chen.

The report's objectives are to explain what "diverse thinking" really means for governance, how to increase diverse thinking, the predictors of diverse thinking beyond gender and ethnicity, and how to create a diverse thinking boardroom culture and governance practice for peak performance and better decision-making.

It gathers insights, guidance and advice from over 60 chairs, directors and governance professionals about how best to attract retain, and leverage diverse thinkers in the best interests of the company or organisation.

“The report is also a call to experienced directors to lead for more diverse thinking in Boardrooms in the best interests of the company/organisation. Diverse thinking around the board table is essential to improving the performance of companies and organisations,” Ms Chen says.

The report says there was an "overwhelming chorus" of senior directors wanting to show leadership in removing the barriers to getting more diverse thinking on boards.

It defines diverse thinking as "having a different viewpoint from the norm, taking different perspectives to problems and problem solving, and viewing issues through different lenses".

"This difference may be due to having different demographic factors from the rest of the board such as gender, ethnicity or a different cultural background, age, being abled differently from the norm, or sexuality. But such factors are only one group of predictors of diverse thinking. There are many others including professional training and personal experiences, how you were raised and in what circumstances. So diverse thinking does not necessarily coincide with attributes like gender or ethnicity or age - but it often does."

The report provides a number of high-level solutions, each of which comes from actions taken by boards:

  • Broaden networks for recruitment of diverse thinking directors.
  • Need for a Diverse Thinking Matrix alongside the skills matrix. 
  • Skills needed by chairs and senior directors to change board culture.
  • All directors need to build their own diverse thinking capability.
  • Training on the key skills, attitudes, capabilities, tools, tactics and strategies.
  • Realignment of board processes.
  • CEO/Management also need to value and engage in diverse thinking.
  • Measuring diverse thinking by the board/chairs and directors.
  • Leadership from senior directors to define the issues and to grow diverse thinking in New Zealand boardrooms.
  • A periodic capability audit of diverse thinking in boardrooms.