Dismantling the Echo Chamber: The Power of New Voices in Shaping Strategy
Dismantling the Echo Chamber: The Power of New Voices in Shaping Strategy
Daniel Forrester, CEO
By Daniel Forrester, CEO
August 10, 2018
In the midst of today’s rapid digital disruption, setting and communicating a clear, focused strategy has never been more important. Boards and CEOs must ask: Who's in the room where this happens? (Thank you, Lin Manual Miranda.) In our work in board rooms around the country, we have found that “who” you bring into the room can make all the difference. Strategies developed in isolation will be blind to fast-occurring disruptions in the broader ecosystem. Missing a disruption or failing to frame change correctly can be so damaging that an organization will sink before it even has time to respond.

In the midst of today’s rapid digital disruption, setting and communicating a clear, focused strategy has never been more important. Boards and CEOs must ask: Who's in the room where this happens? (Thank you, Lin Manual Miranda.) In our work in board rooms around the country, we have found that “who” you bring into the room can make all the difference. Strategies developed in isolation will be blind to fast-occurring disruptions in the broader ecosystem. Missing a disruption or failing to frame change correctly can be so damaging that an organization will sink before it even has time to respond.

CEOs who allow themselves to exist in echo chambers will not be able to keep pace with those who have the pulse on disruption and societal shifts. Below are 4 actions CEOs and boards must consider to build a strategy that meets the moment of change we are living through.

1. Bring your customers into the room. It’s easy to get distracted from your company’s mission and begin chasing exciting digital technologies for their own sake. While technology can improve your customers’ experience, it will never replace your founding purpose—your mission. Staying focused on your “why” as well as your customers and their needs is critical in any strategic planning effort, and bringing customers into the discussion will help ensure that their needs drive your company’s progress and innovation.

2. Bring outside experts into the room. Operating in any space means having beliefs about how the industry has worked and will work in the future. Building an adaptive strategy requires challenging these beliefs by seeking out what you don’t know as well as what you don’t know you don’t know. One way to challenge assumptions and think expansively about change is conducting executive roundtable discussions with leaders, innovative thinkers, and experts across multiple industries. These dialogues allow leaders to consider market changes, digital disruptions, and societal shifts and the impact such changes could have on their own business before disruption strikes.

3. Discover what the “cloud” really is. The transformation toward an increasingly digital world means moving beyond the assumption that one person or one department can effectively execute a digital strategy. If your technologist isn’t part of your strategic conversations, you won’t understand how to take advantage of the new services the cloud has to offer. As Frank DiGiammarino, Senior Fellow, Beeck Center at Georgetown University, says, “The cloud isn’t just a place to store your pictures. The cloud is a powerful set of digital tools that enable you to transform how you work. From AirBnB to Netflix to every tech startup, technology experts who understand the unique services the cloud offers are crucial to transforming how we work and how we deliver for our customers. The technologist must always be at the table working on the core business.”

4. Get input from across generations. For the first time in our history, the workforce spans 4 generations, making age an even more critical factor in setting strategy. Leaders who truly want to uncover their blind spots must seek wisdom from both age and youth. Consider an example from the Smithsonian. Alongside a board made up of some of the most experienced executives in the United States, Secretary David J. Skorton routinely engages a group of teenagers on questions such as how to use social media to bring more people to the Smithsonian.

CEOs who actively invite external voices and new perspectives will not only anticipate disruption but also thrive through it. This is not just about getting by or making token gestures; it is about changing how your organization thinks and operates. The time to dismantle the echo chamber is now.