Gaining diverse perspectives

At Redvespa, even as a private, family-owned and mid-sized business, we have a strong advisory board (and, unusually, a constitution, driven from purpose). We are also consultants who partner with business leaders. This makes us “curious and capable” exponents of the costs and benefits of diversity of thinking, and how it helps in business strategy and design.

We are curious by nature and analytical by design; as well as our consulting, we carry out original research. Today we want to explore with our fellow businesses across Aotearoa how we best create and support diversity of thinking in NZ’s boards to get productivity gains, when non-traditional expertise is in short supply.

This nine question survey (plus some demographic questions) shares some background research as information and provocation, and poses some questions to existing Board Chairs and members.

If you are on multiple boards, it would be great to have a response per board; if time is tight, please pick the board that you feel is on the biggest journey around diversity.

Keith Shering
Chief Impact Officer, Redvespa

The Survey

Section 1: The case and compulsion for diversity of perspectives.
The Productivity Commission and Institute of Directors published research in 2020, which found that diversity of thinking, skills and experience on the board are a hallmark of New Zealand’s “frontier firms”.
In a 2021 paper (and a very accessible Brené Brown podcast here), Reitz and Higgins lay out the changing landscape of expectations on businesses, especially from their primary asset - their people. They coined the term “employee activism”, and their research is revealing and challenging for boards making choices for the future. Expectations of our drivers and skills are higher. Our judgement is already under more, and different scrutiny, and more change is to come.
Section 2: “Designing in” diversity to boards.
McKinsey and Co research suggests that businesses with strong design skills perform at twice the level of less-deliberate organisations.
Slightly provocatively, the Productivity Commission/IoD research stated that there is no shortage of lawyers and accountants to be board members, however other experiences, like deep commercial or international perspectives, are thinner on the ground.
Section 3: Balancing diversity with efficiency
The diversity research suggested that a critical mass of three “different-thinking” people is needed to cut through traditional group-think. The average board size in New Zealand is around 6-7 people, so for many businesses this could make their board unwieldy.
Section 4: Demographics
We’d like to ask you some demographic questions, so that research insights and conclusions can be kept relevant.
Staying in the conversation
Please let us know your email if you would like links to the referenced research, and a summary of our findings after the research concludes.
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