Asking Incisive Questions


Reprinted with permission from the January 2016 issue of Trustee magazine, vol. 69, no. 1. © 2016 by Health Forum Inc. Permission granted for digital use only. 

By John Koster and Gary Bisbee

Deeply held beliefs can blind boards to the true nature of change. It’s time to challenge the orthodoxies.

In the early 2000s, the Nokia board debated creating a smartphone. The company’s wireless handset was the global best seller. Management believed consumers would not use a touch screen on a handset. They knew Apple had 200 patents on relevant technology but, for a host of reasons, they did not respond until too late.

Napster threatened music industry boards. They decided to stop Napster even if they had to sue their own customers. Their focus was “criminal activity,” not transformative technology. Opportunity closed as others moved into that space.

The Kodak board, in the 1990s, reviewed management’s plans for the first digital camera. Management had a problem. They could not incorporate film or chemicals into image creation. It didn’t fit the company’s orthodoxy of photography. The project was put into mothballs.

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