In November 2000 I received my first appointment to a Board of Directors. It felt like being awarded a medal for past achievements, although I was still quite young. During my first Board Meeting I learned that such appointments were also thought after collectibles. How many other mandates a Board Member had, was an additional criteria on how serious this man had to be taken and how important he was.
Furthermore, I learned, in order to keep a Board Membership, the (mostly) elderly gentlemen around the table would rather shut up and keep quiet, only uttering their disagreement and frustration with the Chairman outside the Board Room in a low pitched voice to likeminded gentlemen under four eyes. Nobody wanted to put one’s reappointment for a further term at risk. All in all, it was a jolly good time. Risks and rewards a company was facing were much easier to assess than today.
In the years that followed, the questions that were to be answered and the situations that were to be faced in the Board Room got more and more global, complex, digital and challenging. The amount of data one had to be aware of seem to become more impenetrable with each day. The stakes of risk and reward got higher every year, the risk of misjudging a situation rose significantly, as did the potential consequences for the company, the legal requirements to be fulfilled, and the insurance premiums for the Board Members.
In 2010 at the Techonomy Conference at Lake Tahoe in California the then CEO of Google, Eric Schmidt, said that every 2 days we create as much information as we did from the dawn of mankind to 2003. That means every two days a maelstrom of 5 exabytes of data entered our lives. Never in human history has there been so much data and digital thinking and never has there been a more volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous and risky business environment. But my brain cannot put more hours into a day or week to read, soak up information and be connected with relevant people of an industry in various countries.
At the end of 2010 my dear friend Jean-Luc and I decided to invite ten business people with very diverse backgrounds from around the world to Hamburg for a Global Discourse Dinner, as we called it, to discuss two questions: „What caused the global financial crisis?“ and „How can we prevent it from happening again?“ At the table were finance experts, CEOs, entrepreneurs, Broad Members, but also two body-mind-therapists, Robert, an osteopath with a German passport brought up in Africa and Asia, and Anam, a therapist of Sri Lankan and British descent trained by Osho. Whilst ten of us were busy giving our points of views and providing our suggestions to these two questions, both body-mind-therapists jotted down a chart on how each of the people around the table used their brain’s capacity to reach and utter their conclusions. After we had summarized the rational results of our debate on the financial crisis, Robert and Anam presented us with their insights. Nine of us twelve were only utilizing the left hand side of our brains, two (the therapists) were only using the right hand side and just one was able to combine the potential of both brain hemispheres in parallel, thus opening up to a much larger source of insights and solutions. This made me curious, I read various books about this subject, consulted brain specialists and started to change my approach to being a Board Member.
From all of this I learned, that we as Board Members have a much larger potential to fully grasp a situation and to find solutions than we currently do. I have visualized my learnings for you, dear reader, in the watercolor picture combined with this blog article.
In short: The left hand side of our brain is the „I“, separated from the world, digital, black & white, numbers, facts, measuring, calculating, logic, control, strategy, rat race, attack, war, beat and, if needed to calm my fears, kill. It is fed by information provided by our five senses and only allows for new information to settle in that is in line with already existing information. What does not fit in is simply ignored. The left hand side of our brain is empty when we are born. Our five senses and the experience we gather during childhood and adolescence fill it up and determine its future view of the world around us as well as how we prefer do deal with it.
The right hand side of our brain is the „We“, in unity with all their lives and all members of the human family, analog, colorful, full of pictures, sounds and emotions, fully connected, in harmony and peaceful, creative, imaginative as well as visionary. It is nonjudgmental, empathic and creates solutions out of the greatest chaos and complexity. The right hand side of the brain is fully functional when we are born. It is the precondition for genius performances, fed by our intuition (gut feeling) and in contact with our higher self or soul, if you prefer that word.
With the left hemisphere of our brain the „I“ chases all it desires to give it a feeling of being alive. With the right hemisphere the „me and we“ connects with the meaning of life.
Our formal education nurtures - exclusively or at least predominantly - the left hand side of our brain and our working environment only values this hemisphere. In consequence, the left hand side dominates the Board Room. In addition, more and more Board Members realize that they have reached their limits. In Hong Kong, an investment company has appointed Artificial Intelligence (a highly sophisticated analytical tool) to one seat in the Board Room for it to evaluate all available data before taking an investment decision. No decision of the human beings at the table is allowed to be taken that contradicts the findings of the Artificial Intelligence.
So here we are, humans, with capacities not yet fully tapped into in a Board Room with ever more complexity and responsibility surrounding us. The solution waits inside of each of us. We can bring the right hemisphere of our brain into action like we push the four wheel drive button of a car. We ourselves can make the difference we need, next to being informed and highly skilled in thinking.
In 2018 I had the privilege to become a Member of the Board of a holding company who tackles the volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous and risky future of its businesses by tapping into the full brain potential of their Managers and Board Members. Blood pressure goes down, sleep becomes more restful and the joy of taking up the responsibility of a Member of a Board comes back again. The whole brain is welcome, wanted and highly appreciated.
For this Board, members are picked with regard to their business qualification, experience as well as their ability to fully utilize both hemispheres of their brain. In addition, each Board Meeting commences with fifteen minutes to bring both hemispheres of the brain up to speed with short body and visualization exercises as well as a round of opening up emotionally.
In addition, due to the right hemisphere mode being active, all decisions have to be reached by unanimous vote. Overpowering others or sneaking out of one’s responsibility is impossible. Discussions can become heated and highly emotional, yet nothing is taken personally and therefore team spirit remains high, because we all do it for the benefit of something larger than us. The solutions found and the decisions taken make Board Members feel confident to have given their best under the present circumstances. And that is a very rewarding experience. Personally, I am confident that this will be a widely practiced modus operandi for the profession of Board Members Pro around the world in the very near future. Just let our business environment get even more volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous … because who wants to be exchanged by an AI driven robot?
If I have made you curious for more details and how to activate and train the potential of the right hemisphere of your brain, check out my e-booklet "The Board Member Pro - How to Remain the Boss of AI", available via the link on the HOME page of this website worldwide via Amazon.