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Harnessing the power and dedication of young minds.

By | 14/02/2022 in Blog posts
Harnessing the power and dedication of young minds.

Two recent experiences have caused me to reflect on the benefits of recruiting young minds to address current strategic challenges facing businesses.

Reviewing the board of one charity I had the opportunity to observe the contributions of the two youngest members of that board. Each of them was in their twenties and their vision, their insight and their maturity were remarkable. They were a real asset. I have often cited this deployment of young minds on a board as an example inspired practice particularly with charities. Given the onerous responsibility imposed on directors of public companies of course, I understand the need for experience and stature and how difficult it would be for a ‘twenty something year old’ to undertake that. But there must be other ways to engage them. 

This week I was asked to judge a regional award for environmental endeavour. The finalists were three very different businesses, one of which is a large commercial enterprise processing vegetables. A graduate recruited eighteen months ago straight from university has succeeded in persuading her senior management to examine more closely and thereby appreciate the inherent economic advantages of investment in sustainable options. At the same time with her encouragement, they are now broadening their sphere of influence to help and encourage their suppliers as well in this endeavour.

There are two obvious arenas in which young people can make a real contribution albeit for different reasons. The environment is one.  Young people have so much more invested in the future of our environment and they want to look at alternative approaches. They understand the sacrifices their generation is prepared to make, and the credit awarded to those companies who are prepared to take those steps. The other area is information technology. The driver here is purely economic.   Young people are more conversant with developments in IT. They understand better the power of its potential applications and the commercial opportunities.

How many boards of directors of public companies then involve young people when formulating strategy, particularly around these two challenges? Surely some do, but it is by no means a common practice. Many talk of shadow boards but rarely follow though.

In a recent blog we said, ‘the age -old board skills of insight, intellectual curiosity and strategic advice remain important, but climate change will require boards to think outside the box’. Young people unconstrained by the inhibitions of age and experience are more likely to think outside the box. Is it not time therefore for more boards to harness this youthful and committed energy and run their strategic sessions alongside shadow boards of much younger members of their staff? 

James Bagge is the executive chairman and co-founder of Bvalco, a board evaluation consultancy focused on helping boards become fit for the future

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