Interconnectivity, which has thrived on increased speed, is now more than an expectation. These vast improvements in processing speed have produced many rewards. They have led to new tools, resources, and applications to improve business operations; created new customer needs, services, and markets; and expanded opportunities for exponential profits for
established and start-up companies. Exciting, to say the least, but a dark side to such speed has also appeared; think of financial markets “flash crashes,” massive data breaches resulting in damages we may never fully know, and a new, almost incomprehensible, rate of company and industry implosions. Having started my career at the dawn of the “Internet of Things,” I have seen the evolution of many technological advances and applications from multiple vantage points.
Thinking back, it is hard to believe that any of us had the patience to log onto a computer by using a telephone handset and a coupler, and then waiting five minutes or more to make a connection to some remote mainframe computer. Today, we barely tolerate even a few seconds for a response to our text messages or on-line searches. Just over 50 years ago, Gordon Moore, co-founder of Intel, predicted that the processing power of computers would double every two years. For the most part, that prediction proved accurate, to the point that it is now referred to as “Moore’s Law.” What he did not foresee, however, was just how much data (2.5 quintillion new bytes each day) would be generated, collected, stored, analyzed, and then turned into information that would give rise to never-imagined services, products, businesses, and financial opportunities. Fortunately, this trend continues, unabated. But, where good things thrive, dark things thrive alongside them.
It is a global necessity. Today, one can sit in the middle of the Gobi Desert with some basic skills and low-cost equipment, and connect with, and know what is happening, throughout the world and even influence others both close by and thousands of miles away. Interconnectivity has made it possible for hundreds of millions of people to instantly share views, information, and ideas through social media (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and more than 50 others) and vastly advanced the trade of goods and services (Amazon, Alibaba, Ebay and virtually all wholesale and retail operations). Even infrastructure and basic governmental institutions at all levels are leveraging interconnectivity. But interconnectivity has also created a new playground for the dark side by hackers, cyber criminals, organized crime, state-sponsored espionage and sabotage, and terrorist recruiting − all enabled by this new global resource.
As I have watched the development of global connectivity and its opportunities, I have also observed how many companies have been slow in understanding the disruptive risks presented by the dark side of these advancing technology trends. Cyber security is the top of mind example. It has taken some spectacular breaches in security, and irreparable damage to some companies, before the media and business community were whipped into a state of frenzy about dealing with these risks. Sadly, the cyber security/breach frenzy is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to corporate survival. What other dark sides to technological trends are lurking out there, that you do not know about, that can hurt you? As a CEO and director, do you really have any idea?
For many of you, these technology-based opportunities and risks have been increasing while you were busy taking care of business. But, let’s be clear: these trends, with all their good and evil, are coming whether you are prepared or not. Think of them as part of “business climate change.” How will you prepare for them? What is most important for you, as a CEO and director, is to stay ahead of these technology trends. To do this, you must identify what risks and rewards these technologies will bring to you. It is difficult to know about all the advances that could possibly affect your business, because they are occurring so quickly. But competent CEOs and directors have a fiduciary responsibility to learn about and understand the relevant trends that are evolving, maturing, and even going obsolete, as you read this.
Where does this understanding start? It starts with the simple question: “What is it that I do not know?” To do that, CEOs and boards need to identify what they do understand about all things cyber that relate to the company’s risks and opportunities. Only then, can you start to grasp what you do not know. However, for CEOs and directors, admitting what you do not know can be seen as “disclosure is exposure.” This, fortunately, can be easily handled through a confidential assessment process.
Now, if you are looking for someplace to start, we can help! To assist you in determining what you know and what you may not know, BoardBench has developed a confidential, concise, self-assessment tool for CEOs and directors about major technology trends, that takes only minutes to complete, and costs you nothing. We only share your specific results with you and your board members. This information should provide you and the board with a roadmap to guide you in your discussions on how to develop and adjust your strategies to deal with these looming technology trends.
This tool, like all of our services, is solely focused on improving the work of boards and CEOs. You can contact me or my colleagues at BoardBench about this tool, or to get more information on what else we offer, at any time. However, in thinking about what you want to do, there may be less time than you think!
Nancy May is President and CEO of The BoardBench Companies, a corporate governance advisory firm whose services includes: director search/succession services, board evaluations, director education, and individual director candidate coaching advisory services.