‘Oh brave new world, that has such people in it!’
Shakespeare, who wrote the above line in his play The Tempest, would have perfectly understood the simple truth in the saying
Omnia mutantur nos et mutamur in illis.
After all, Latin was an essential part of his schooling.
OK. Let me explain. Everyone who had a classical education would understand what that saying means. But of course people generally don’t have the benefit of a classical education these days so there are very few [or perhaps there’s only Jacob Rees-Mogg] who would now understand what this famous quotation means, although most people would agree with its sentiment.
Well, let’s get down to business. In particular, the changing face of non-executive directors.
A Non-Executive Directorship in the recent past has been the preserve of ex-bankers/accountants/lawyers and so on, with boards benefiting from their knowledge and expertise and the black book of contacts they bring with them. These have been of huge benefit to companies and will continue to be so.
But now we need to accept that
Novus homo vel mulier advenit
Oops! There I go again. A loose translation would be There’s a new kid on the block. And just who is this new kid? He or she is the one who brings to the non-exec world something quite different: not the vast wealth of experience that others round the table bring and which is such a fundamental part of a company’s continued success. Indeed, established non-execs bring all the benefits of a hindsight culled from experience. But these newcomers bring opportunities that others round that table might not grasp: they bring with them the vision of a brave new world of digital marketing, social media avenues, the vast panoply of what the internet has to offer. And these potential non-execs are young, and gifted, and filled not only with ambition but knowledge and expertise of a digital world alien to many older members of the board.
In effect, they are the changing face of the boardroom – the ones who give the lie to the old saying that it is impossible to
vetus canis docere nova artificia
[which, as JRM will tell us, means to teach an old dog new tricks!]
These fresh new non-execs might not quite teach their fellow board members all of their new tricks but they can certainly show them the benefits. For the potential of digital expertise is limitless, and it will be a far-sighted company that recognises the opportunities it offers. Young and ambitious people are out there with all the new skills, the new tricks, that can help companies seek exciting new markets while retaining all the best of what traditional non-execs bring to the table. Indeed, it’s a tremendously exhilarating prospect for companies with the foresight and imagination to embrace what digital marketing has to offer.
Successful, visionary companies might even contemplate including in their prospectus the Latin quotation that opened this article. In English, it means
All things change, and we change with them.
Ian Wright is the Founder and CEO of VirtualNonExecs.com – a world wide members’ network connecting businesses with expert non-executive directors.