66. Nav Singh on the future of Governance and Innovation

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Episode Description

Nav Singh has held leadership roles at McKinsey’s Boston office, including Managing Partner for Boston and Leader of the Global Innovation Practice. After retiring from McKinsey in 2023, he launched a new entrepreneurial venture, called 2123iX.                                 

In this episode Nav’s shares valuable insights on effective board practices, the importance of innovation and technology in governance, and the critical role of diversity in fostering successful organizational leadership. The episode emphasizes the importance of proactive, informed, and collaborative board engagement to navigate the challenges and opportunities of the next century.

Big Ideas/Thoughts/Quotes

  1. 2123iX – A Century of Innovation

The name 2123iX originates from Nav’s retirement year (2023) and his vision to impact the next 100 years. Its focus is on creating a culture and mindset for longevity and innovation and emphasizes patience and quality in building companies that will make a significant difference.

“2123 stands for a 100 years, “I” stands for innovation, “X” stands for scale. The most important thing is: we’re in no rush. We want to build high-quality companies over time, we’ll be purposeful and take our time doing it.”

  1. Board Preparation Insights from McKinsey:
  • Importance of thorough and honest preparation for board presentations
  • Engaging discussions over presentations to drive meaningful decisions.

“In my mind, a good board discussion preparation requires an honest view of what are the risks, what could go wrong, what are the main issues we’re trying to solve…It is that holistic view that in my mind makes a good board presentation and results in a good board discussion.”

  1. Characteristics of High-Performing Boards:
  • The balance between healthy tension and collaboration between boards and management.
  • The critical role of the board chair in setting a positive, inclusive culture.
  • The necessity of continuous learning and adaptability among board members.

“Discussion is much more important than presentation.  Sometimes people become enamored by our presentation and the materials. But its the discussion that you drive, the decisions that you drive that matters the most.”

“The most important thing is one should be on the same page. People should be on the same team.  People should be working towards the same goals… and there should be some healthy tension, that’s good in my mind.”

  1. Diversity in Board Composition:
  • The impact of diverse perspectives on board strength and decision-making is enormous. Beyond gender and race, diversity includes age, skills, and the ability to learn is critical.

“Diversity is multifaceted and one needs to think about this in a holistic way…The most important thing in my mind is a learning ability.”

  1. Risk Identification and Management
  • Boards must think beyond the obvious and prepare for future risks. This weighs in favor of a dedicated risk committee to focus on emerging threats.

“I think risk is where most boards should earn their living…Defense means, in this case, thinking about what could go wrong…It is not just the identification of risk, what is the abatement plan, who is going to work on that, how do we address it?”

  1. AI and Technology on Boards
  • The transformative potential of AI and technology on businesses and governance is almost beyond out imagination. It underscores the importance of having board members with technology expertise and a willingness to stay informed.
  1. The Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce – A Model for Diversity
  • In the past few years the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce board of directors has made a successful effort to significantly increase diversity in gender and race on the board, and to broaden diversity in skills, age, and industry representation.


McKinsey & Company

Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Museum of Science Boston

Massachusetts High Technology Council 

Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce





Joe: Hello and welcome to On Boards, a deep dive at what drives business success. I’m Joe Ayoub and I’m here with my co-host Raza Shaikh. Twice a month, On Boards is a place to learn about one of the most critically-important aspects of any company or organization – its board of directors or advisors – with a focus on the important issues that are facing boards, company leadership and stakeholders.

Raza: Joe and I speak with a wide range of guests and talk about what makes a board successful or unsuccessful, what it means to be an effective board member, and how to make your board one of the most valuable assets of your organization.

Joe: Our guest today is Nav Singh. Nav is a senior partner emeritus from McKinsey’s Boston office where he held a variety of roles, including managing partner for Boston, leader of the state and [00:01:00] local practice in North America, leader of the Global Innovation Practice and of McKinsey’s Center of Government Governance, and he was a member of the firm’s Knowledge and Technology Council as well. He also holds 20 patents from his work prior to McKinsey.

Raza: He has served as the chair of the board of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce. He is a trustee at the Museum of Science and Worcester Polytechnic Institute. He is also a member of the executive committee of Mass High Tech Council.

Joe: Now, he retired from McKinsey in 2023 and is now reinventing himself as he pursues his entrepreneurial passions. He has founded a platform called 2123iX with an aspiration of helping launch companies that will make a difference over the next 100 years. Nav, [00:02:00] it’s great to have you here with us on On Boards today.

Nav: Thank you, Joe and Raza. It’s a pleasure to be here and thank you both for all what you do.

Joe: As a start, tell us about what the platform 2123iX means. It’s obviously something ambitious, because if you’re going to solve the problems of the next 100 years, it must be. But what does it stand for?

Nav: I think the most important thing is, there is, I hope, going to be a lot of fun. 2123 came because I retired in 2023, 2123 is 100 years from now. I’ve had the pleasure of working with two great companies, GE and McKinsey, both 100 years, almost one of them and one of them much more than 100. I’ve had the pleasure of working with many clients and many institutions that have survived 100 years.

It takes a different type of a culture and mindset to survive that time. Very few people do. So, yes, we’re being ambitious by taking a 100-year look. [00:03:00] I’ve also had the pleasure of working with many venture capitalists, many PE firms, many, different types of tech companies. I’m a huge fan of technology, a huge fan of innovation.

If you just think about it, the progress we’ve made over the last 20 years from a technology perspective has been mind blowing. None of us would have guessed that. I remember in ’89, we barely were using emails at that time, and look, we have come. So, just take a 100-year outlook, technology is going to transform us dramatically.

So, 2123 stands for a 100 years, I stands for innovation. X stands for scale. The most important thing is we’re in no rush. We want to build a high-quality company over time, and we’d be purposeful and take our time towards it.

Joe: I will be watching carefully to see what you do, and I’m sure it will be interesting. Thanks. So, in your years with McKinsey, you had the opportunity many times to work with management in preparation for board meetings. [00:04:00] Let’s start with some observations about the prep work that you observed. What did you see that was good? What did you see that concerned you?

Nav: So, look, I had the pleasure of being in multiple boardrooms, helping multiple management teams prepare for the board presentations. As you may know, like McKinsey, I had the privilege of working with the C-suite, with the CEOs, and they’re a layer down and sometimes two layers down. And often when a board topic is coming up they need some external advice, they need to get prepared around issues, and we had the pleasure of partnering with many of them.

Some of them are big decisions. For example, should we do M&A or not, or what types of deals to do? Some could be cultural issues, some could be technological issues, some could be portfolio issues, all kinds of issues. The board presentation is fun because it’s a purpose. There’s a date that one is working towards. Everybody’s clear on the goals. Everybody makes a time. You know that your materials will not go [00:05:00] into a bookshelf. They will be used for a good discussion, hopefully drive some decisions.

In my mind, a good board discussion preparation requires an honest view of what are the risks, what could go wrong, what are the main issues we’re trying to solve, really understand the market, have some logic to it. Have key decisions outlined, what is the decision we’re trying to make, what are the options around those, what are the pros and cons of that. It is that holistic view that in my mind makes a good board presentation and a good board discussion.

I would say discussion is much more important than presentation, because people get enamored by our presentation and the materials. It’s that ultimate discussion that you drive, the decisions that you drive that matters the most.

Joe: Amen. Amen. I couldn’t agree more. I think presentations should be very short at board meetings. But in terms of the rigor with which management prepared what they were doing, [00:06:00] was there a variance in what you saw? How did various management groups that you work with approach what they were going to put together for the board?

Nav: I think the most important thing is how much the CEO and the management people are engaged. There were some who thought the topic that was being discussed was worthy of a lot of the time and they spent quite some time because it was a big material decision, and the most important thing as a consultant should aspire towards is a management owning the recommendations, owning that decision.

So, when the management team is intimately engaged in a board topic, that leads to a much better outcome because ultimately the management owns it, and that is nirvana for a consultant, because you want to partner with the management team and work with them to make things happen.

Now, what sometimes on the other side happens is, a board and the questions that the board ask and the board prep can create a lot of work. It [00:07:00] can create a lot of work for the management teams, and sometimes as I went through this exercise when the teams are ultimately engaged, you wonder when do they really get the time to do other things.

I think it’s a balance so the board can drive great things, but can also create a lot of work for the organization, a lot of churn, and remember, you’re working with the CEO and sometimes their teams, and it’s getting a huge amount of work across the whole ecosystem, so one has to be very careful from a board perspective with the questions that you ask, the materials that you asked for and how much time and rigor a management team should spend on it. If it’s a big decision, Joe and Raza, go all in. If it’s a minor decision, be careful of not overdoing it.

Joe: Now, that’s good advice. Now, one of the things you mentioned when we talked about this a week or so ago was that on some occasions, they would ask you to be there for the board meeting, and sometimes not, and that’s certainly my experience. I’m sure Raza as well. In my view, if you want the [00:08:00] board to really understand a critically-important issue, I would raise the question, why not have the expert, not the whole team, you don’t want too many bodies in the room, why not have the lead consultant or whoever it is that’s helping you with this topic, be in the room so the board has an opportunity not to just hear the presentation, but to ask questions that will help create a better discussion. What your thoughts about that?

Nav: I think, as I shared last time I am mixed beyond this. On one hand, I think there are times when they should be in the room because there are some big provocative decisions that’s being made and having a full view and understanding and being prepared to answer the questions of the board in a very independent way is very powerful. I think that’s part one.

At times, though it’s totally fine for us not to be there, because ultimately we are working for the management and the management may have 10 [00:09:00] different things that they’re working through and our component and our work could be one part of it, nine out of 10 parts could be other parts that they’re working on.

At times, the CEOs will not want us to be there, and sometimes they’re big decisions. But if that’s the case, that’s a minority when that happens, I think, but that’s a choice. That’s a relationship between the board and the CEO and the leadership team. It may not be the best outcome, but that’s fine. I think it is their choice. I think life is about judgments.

Yes, as a board member, if I ever wanted, I can always go back and say, “Look, I do want to do a deep dive into this and I would like to talk to X and Y.” I know I’m not being prescriptive as to what is the right answer. In my mind, it is judgment and I think as long as we are there for the big decisions, and at least our thinking is being represented well, that’s the most important thing.

Joe: Well, my concern would be if the reason ultimately was that management wanted to manage the issue. That is, that maybe not [00:10:00] put everything out there for the board because they want the board to go in a certain direction, and that would be my concern. So, yeah, I understand it’s management’s decision. But when management is working at the highest level, they are often incredibly inclusive with bringing all of the information to the board so the board can really understand it, ask the difficult questions, challenge maybe what management is thinking appropriately, and make the discussion as deep and productive as possible.

So, that will get us into the next topic that I wanted to kind of get into with you which is, what are the board practices and characteristics of a high-performing board that you saw and the one that, when we talked before, we’ll go through a few of them, that you talked a lot about the last time was collaborative approach, which makes a lot of sense. Talk a little bit about what you’ve observed and and why that is [00:11:00] such an important aspect to making a board really effective.

Nav: Yeah, this is a tricky topic, because the board has a responsibility of oversight. The management has a responsibility of driving impact and delivering. There should be some natural tension and there should be some healthy tension, and that’s good in my mind.

But the most important thing is one should be on the same page. People should be on the same team. People should be working towards the same goals. In the process, if there’s some healthy tension, that’s totally fine and that should be there, so I have no concerns about the healthy tension.

I do have concerns about unhealthy tension, when the board wants to do the management’s job. As you know, many of the board members have prior leadership experiences. They always go back to, “This is how I did it, and I was so good at what I did. You all don’t know what you’re doing.”

Sometimes that creeps naturally. I think as you have confident leaders on the board, I think that naturally happens. The urge that every board member, in my mind, should [00:12:00] prevent is that, look, they’re not management. They have a different role.

Healthy tension is perfectly fine, having an expectation is fine, but doing the management’s job is not fine. By the way, if you don’t like the CEO and the leadership team, you need to act on that. And at times one needs to act on it and that’s totally fine. In that case, if the tension is even higher and maybe even unhealthy, that’s okay, because that is a tough decision that needs to be made, but that is very rare. In most cases, people are trying to make a difference with the existing team and are very happy with the team.

How do you collaborate and what is the culture that you create, because the board also has a responsibility of beyond being the healthy, the source of healthy tension, they also are a source of inspiration. They need to inspire the management team. They need to do this in a constructive way.

That in my 23 years, the top leaders also need some inspiration. They need some encouragement. They need some love at times, and the board plays a critical role in doing that.[00:13:00]

Joe: That is an excellent observation and a fair thing to hold the board to, I think. You talked about a healthy tension, which I think makes a lot of sense, and, of course, it’s true that the board shouldn’t get into management. We know that and sometimes that line is not as clear as it might be.

On the other hand, there are management teams that don’t want the board to get fully into a subject because, as I said, they may have other reasons. Maybe they’re good reasons, maybe they’re not. And so one of the things we did talk about before, another important factor in boards, is the role of the chair in helping to set the tone for the board culture. Talk a little bit about the role that the board chair can play and the impact he or she can have on board culture.

Nav: Joe, you and I have been Celtics fans, as you know, I’m not sure about Raza. I’m sure he’s a Celtics fan also. I almost [00:14:00] see the role of the board chair as a coach as well, and they have a team and the team is the board, and it is critical for them to make sure that the team is working well as a team and the culture of the team is important.

I think people often try to fix the culture bottoms up. I personally think the culture has to be addressed top down and the role of the CEO and the chair in defining the culture of a board is absolutely critical. You should be able to raise the questions. You should be able to ask the tough ones. You should be able to say, “Look, I don’t agree with the decision.” You should have the encouragement. The board members should get the feedback.

One should be always asking board members so the board members are going to come at the time. We should be always asking them in an independent way what do they think. This could be during the board meeting or after the board meetings.

This culture that we are all on the same team and the chair together with the CEO are the captains of the team, because I do [00:15:00] think the CEO plays an equally critical role out here, but the role of the chair in terms of the dialogue, in terms of the discussion, in terms of the agenda, in terms of ensuring that all the board members are being heard, listening to them.

We talk about inclusion. Inclusion in my mind is just not race or gender or color, whatever. Inclusion in my mind is listening to people, hearing them out, getting their point of view, because otherwise why have a board if you’re not listening to them, and I think in my mind, the chair plays such a critical role in any of that.

Joe: I love the analogy to the coach of a NBA basketball team, and in thinking that through, one of the things that I think is a great practice is, the analogy I’ll make is, that when you go into executive session, it’s kind of like a timeout, and coaches need to take a time out now and then.

I know Joe Mazzulla is taking more this year than last year and it seems to be working well, but [00:16:00] having the team together and with the chair coaching them or guiding them and thinking about what are we doing and what are we talking about and what are the issues we may have with management, that’s kind of an interesting way to look at it. Thanks for raising that.

Nav: Joe, I have to add one more thing. In my mind, feedback is gift. The chair should proactively be asking for feedback, what’s working well and what is not working well. I’ve seen some board chairs do it extremely well, and I’ve seen the board discussions get better over time.

And some don’t ask. In my mind, having the mix, having the courage to ask the board members as to, “Hey, give me feedback on what i’m doing well versus not doing well,” because none of us get trained to be a board chair We barely get trained to be a board member.

Joe: And even if you are trained, every board is different, like every team is different. So, the way you coach one team is going to be really different from team to team or from board to board, so even if you’ve served as chair, new company, new [00:17:00] subject, new management, new board, maybe a different approach. I think that is a really great comment. It strikes me as being fundamental to the very important role that a chair plays.

If you’re going to give feedback to the CEO, yeah, you should be giving feedback to the chair too, because the CEO and the chair both have to function at a high level for all this to work.

One of the things we’ve all talked about, the three of us, is about the importance of diversity of perspective on the board. That’s what makes a board strong. And one of the things you have said when we’ve talked is, yeah, I mean, of course, it means gender, of course it means racial, but it’s so much more than that. If you could just expand on how you look at diversity of perspective or diversity generally on a board and how that might be viewed.

Nav: Yeah, so as I said, of course, it’s gender, of course, it’s race, of course, it’s like color, so we should never ever move away from that perspective. But [00:18:00] that said, we’re not stressing enough about age. Often people are serving all kinds of demographics. People in the 30s may not resonate with the people in the 40s and 50s and so on, and one needs to keep that in mind also.

Age is an important part that we are not explicitly talking about enough. Skills, what skills do they bring? I go back to our favorite NBA coaching analogy. You would not pick a team that did not have different skills, and what skills they bring and how they complement each other. I think having the skills and the capabilities becomes very, very key in my mind, and we’ll talk about technology soon and having the right skills out there becomes critical in my mind.

But the most important thing in my mind is a learning ability. A board member should be willing to learn and be a sponge, be a great listener, be able to go in and understand the management’s perspective. If needed, dig in deeper. Be willing to understand the [00:19:00] market. Be willing to go all in and the learning capability.

The diversity of that becomes critical because at times, as all of us sit on the board, we think we know it all and we have done this for so many years, but in my mind, we have not learned enough yet and we should be learning all the time. So. To me, that is a critical, critical skill. I would just urge people to think about diversity in a holistic way and to think about the complete team and the complete mix of things that we want.

Joe: Well, two other things I want to ask you about before we get into a focus on AI, which I know is top of mind for many of us, but certainly for you, is the board’s role in identification of risk. I think, again, when we talked earlier, we talked a lot about, sure, the audit committee, a lot of times, that’s where identification kind of resides.

But the audit committee is focused on finances and it’s focused on what happened, not what is going to happen so much. What are [00:20:00] your thoughts about how a board can be best prepared or best in a position to identify major risks in the future in terms of the strategy of the company or the position of the company or the brand of the company?

Nav: I think risk is where most boards should earn their living. I believe in offense and defense, and of course, we need to think offense, but I’ve seen nobody win a championship just based on offense. We can only win a championship if you can do both extremely well.

Joe: Yeah.

Nav: In terms of defense, look, it is not the obvious stuff. In my mind, board members do not earn the keep or their time commitment just by doing the obvious. They need to think around the corner. They need to think ahead. They need to think about what could go wrong. Defense means, in this case, thinking about what could go wrong.

And of course we have an audit committee and people do all the work. I think that to me is table stakes. That’s a must do and everybody should do. But thinking ahead on the [00:21:00] risk, for example, due to political risk a few years ago, some of the risks that we have right now did not exist. A few years from now, the risks that are likely going to come up will likely not exist, so being on top of those.

If you look at cybersecurity risk, it’s a major, major risk. It’s a huge risk for all of us at this stage. And in my mind, I’m not sure if it’s preventable. I have to say that. I hope it’s preventable. I’m not sure if it really is. If you would assume that, I’ll be prepared for it.

If there was a cyber attack, what do we do? If you look at the market risk, I think this is the single biggest one that I do not think people think enough about, what could go wrong with our market? Who are the new entrants? Who are the attackers? Are they gaining market share? How could they enter our space, and how do we think about that?

To me, risk is holistic and one needs to be fully on top of that. But I think beyond that, one also needs a framework and a process and a systematic [00:22:00] approach to assess risk.

I’ve seen some great management teams who put that into place and it goes up to the board also, but because it forces you to think. If you’re having a good risk discussion, if your head does not hurt by the end of the discussion, there’s a problem. Because it is just not the identification of risk, what is the abatement plan, who is going to work on that, how do we address that?

Again, going back to the learning point, being like curious about all kinds of topics and being aware of what could go wrong, so risk is a huge hot button for me all the time. And as I said, you can’t win a championship without great defence and defense to ascertain risk for a company and a board.

Joe: What are your thoughts about having a separate risk committee, separate from the audit committee on a board?

Nav: I’m not a big fan of creating too many committees, but the risk one, I would prioritize above anything else, because this team should be thinking about what could go wrong, not what is obvious because what is obvious hopefully is being addressed. [00:23:00] What could go wrong is much tougher.

Joe: We’ve heard some guests say, “Well, isn’t risk really a full board responsibility that should be a board discussion?” And kind of my reaction to that is sure everything’s a board discussion but who are the people that are kind of charged with thinking and really focusing on the risk aspect because you don’t really have time to do it at every board meeting. So, if there’s not a group kind of fully involved and responsible for risk, I think it’s very easy to miss stuff and all you have to do is miss one really important item in the future, a market risk, an investment risk, a failure to take, and that will have a huge impact on the company.

Nav: As you can see, I’m biased towards having such a committee, and I would also say it’s important to change the compositions of this team over time. Of course, you need some board participation, but then as a risk evolve over time, you should have different people [00:24:00] thinking about who should be a member of the risk committee and what perspectives they can bring.

I think I will go back to my diversity point, how do you get diverse points of view. It’s a very different profile. By the way, as I’ve worked with many science-oriented teams, the best way to assess risk is not with the leadership team, it is to go two or three levels down and sit in the cafeteria and ask people what could go wrong. And some of these people are very, very open. If you were to put them in a spot and say, what could go wrong, you get the best insights because they are on the front lines living it.

Joe: That is a really interesting perspective. I agree. Obviously, management has to be comfortable with you talking to people three levels down, but if you want to gather information, again, a broader perspective, because senior management is focused on what they’re focused on. They may not see some of the things coming that some other folks in the organization might see.

Nav: Joe, I think one of the best practices, [00:25:00] which I implemented when I was a chair of the University of Minnesota Chemical Engineering & Materials Science Board, we had the students come in without the faculty in the room. Those were the best insights, and we told them, “Look, anything you say stays here.” Maybe we’re not sure who said what, but for the advisory board, that was incredibly helpful in thinking through what other things are said that need to be addressed.

Joe: Great approach. I really loved that.

Raza: Now, one of the risk that is obviously emerging and we talk a lot about it is AI. You mentioned that it’s the single most disruptive technology we’ve encountered in our lifetime. How do you see boards getting prepared for that?

Nav: I would say first, AI is the flavor of the month. Some would say, flavor of the year. I would say it has been a flavor for years, because we’re getting excited about GenAI right now over the last, but AI has been [00:26:00] around for a long time and it is making a big difference forever.

But more broadly, Raza, I would say technology. Technology is evolving all the time, and how do we stay on top of that? But the reason why I get excited about AI and other technology areas is, look, the GDP of the world right now is roughly give or take around 80 to 90 trillion dollars. Our McKinsey Global Institute colleagues, some incredible work they’ve done that shows the math of the impact of AI, between 17 to 26 trillion dollars.

Raza: Wow.

Nav: That’s a pretty massive number. If I look at the pharmaceutical area, which I work, and you’re talking about 100 billion dollars worth of impact from AI, these are massive numbers. Given that macro impact and the macro scale, in my mind, and the way it’s going to touch everybody, it’s critical for a board to be fully on top. Not every member may be on top, but a good chunk of members should be fully on top.

There are two [00:27:00] reasons for it. I, again, go back to offense and defense. Look, if you’re not playing defense out here, you will likely get impacted in a significant way because someone is going to enter your field and disrupt you completely.

There’s a huge option for offense as to how do you play offense given the numbers we’re talking about, they are mind blowing. How do you play offense out here? But the most important thing is to figure out what is fluff and what is not. Raza, you’ve been doing this, like living with your fund, to be able to filter out what is good versus not, and what are the markers we’re going to have that help us decide?

Because it is not ultimately what a company invests in AI in terms of the dollars, but it’s a people, it’s a time commitment. So, having all that judgment and that filtering, and it’s changing by the minute.

Raza: think it’s great the way you put it. I think what it implies is that those substantial portion of the board that needs to be ready, needs to understand technology in general and the flavor of the month, in [00:28:00] particular, and then tie it to the opportunities and risks for the enterprise and how to view that and how to make decisions around various aspects of AI from bias to hallucinations to other things.

One thing that I wanted to get your take on is for at least publicly-traded companies, as an example, that there is a requirement for having a financial experts on the audit committee. Would it mix? And taking another example, the DCRO Institute provides qualified risk director certifications and their vision is that at some point, having a risk expert should be required on various parts of the board, would you be in favor of having a required or mandated technology or AI experts on the board?

Nav: I am having a [00:29:00] pause because I’m not a big fan of mandating anything, but should one do it? Maybe yes, as long as you don’t create a lot of bureaucracy around that, go back to the role of the chair and the CEO as a co-captain. It’s a responsibility that they have the right people on these teams. It’s just not about the certification, Raza, as you know, I mean, the way things are moving, if you are stuck in two weeks of old, I mean, you missed it. Things are moving so rapidly, so this is why I go back to the capability I talked about, they should be technically competent, but willing to learn a lot, stay on top of the news, understand the implications of that.

Going back to your hallucinations point, I mean, yeah, these systems are hallucinating right now. Five years from now, will that have improved or not? And I hope so. I’m no AI geek out here. I am trying to barely keep up, but I hope that some of these things will improve over time. One has to assume that. [00:30:00]

But I think the second order impact of what comes from AI as it becomes real, it becomes huge in my mind. I’m not a big fan of certification, but everybody should be willing to learn and a good chunk should be AI competent.

Raza: Yeah, I think in some ways, short of mandating or even a guideline, that it is a very important column in the skills matrix that the board needs to recruit for, and you should have it there. And then on top of that, as you mentioned earlier, that a substantial portion of the board needs to kind of constantly develop their understanding and knowledge of this. It’s just moving very fast.

Nav: My impression, and as we talked about earlier, I think if you’re just trying to train people, yes, you can train them, that gets them to level one in my mind and the journey we are going on is one to 10. So. Going from zero to one is critical. I have no doubt about that, but the journey from one to 10 will be self-driven, so they need to drive it. [00:31:00] The board members need to drive the journey from one to 10 because, Joe, I mean, even this was the base average which we are going, something that is two weeks old is too old.

Joe: That’s quite a challenge, actually, to expect that board members on every board, for public and private companies, will have enough self-motivation to continue to learn at a very quick pace about a broad and fast changing subject matter. It’s certainly a good idea, but to expect that board members will do it on every board without some kind of guideline, or even a mandate, I think may be unrealistic.

Nav: Not every board member needs to do it, but there should be a reasonable chunk of board members who are willing to stay in with the times. Now, I’ve wondered what should be the mix of this, but I go back to look at the last 20 years and the impact of technology in our lives.

[00:32:00] People talk about high tech top companies, mega seven and so on, but look at the disruption that they’ve created. Look at the cashflow that they have. Look at the impact that they have. I would rather be in the business any day, and that requires a lot more competence.

Should people be competent as they come in? Yes. Some would be nice, but the most important thing is, are they willing to learn, because if you just take light pace of every two weeks to the next five years and 10 years, if you’re not keeping pace, how far behind you are?

Raza: I think that’s where the so called winners and losers will be made. People who catch up to AI, and as an organization, as management, as board are able to learn and turn that into an opportunity would be the winners and successors.

Joe: Let’s just talk a minute about the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce Board for which you served as chair for three years. During your term and the subsequent [00:33:00] terms of Paul, my brother, Micho Spring and John Fish. The board has undergone a really significant change in terms of its composition. It’d be great if you could talk a little bit about that.

Nav: So, I think in my mind, this is a great example of the CEO and the multiple board chairs working as a team. This is all going with John Fish who was the chair before me, and then we had Paul Ayoub, your dear brother, who did a remarkable job, and then Micho, and then Ronald Hanley, then Karen Kaplan, who was the chair before John Fish. This always has been a theme.

This always was a topic, and I think we talked about diversity and we said, “Look, why can’t we fix it on the Chamber of Commerce and be a role model to the community?” That was the theme out here. And this was a consistent thing.

Yvonne Garcia joined the board as a nominating and gov chair. She together with Paul have done a remarkable job in continuing that momentum. But it also goes back to the [00:34:00] CEO, Jim Rooney has been a consistent force on this. His whole team is diverse, plus he has been the one who has been, we of course push him, the one person who has ensured that among the different chairs, every chair has had the same team, but Jim has been constant throughout this also.

I think again, it goes back to my point about collaboration and about partnerships. You don’t move anything in a day or two, or an year or two. You move these needles in 5-10 years, and the role that Paul Ayoub, your dear brother played was extremely critical.

I could go around each of the chairs and all of them have played a huge role. Ron O’Hanley is a chair right now, and he’s doing a tremendous job. So, things get moved over time. In my mind, this is a great example. We are more than 50% women now on the board, and I think in terms of people of color, we are approaching 40%. If I’m not right, it’s rough roughly there.

Does it meet all the other diversity criteria I talked about in terms of technology, in terms of age, in terms of [00:35:00] capabilities? Not yet. So, I think that work is still to be done. I also showed an example of Museum of Science, where there are a lot of people who are experts in biotech and life sciences, and there, as I chaired the committee for nom and gov there we are trying to ensure that we have different industries.

I think we go back to the first discussion we had, diversity is multifaceted and one needs to think about this in a holistic way. I’m very proud of the work the Chamber of Commerce has done and everybody else I think lauds that also, but hopefully we will keep working on that for a long time.

Joe: Thank you. I think the mission to achieve really a full diversity on the chamber board over time has set an incredibly strong example. As you said, it serves as a role model for the business community. And there’s nothing better to try to send a message than actually doing it rather than telling people to do it.

Kudos to you and the chairs before and after you that all worked [00:36:00] together with Jim Rooney to make that happen. Nav, it’s been great speaking with you today. Thank you so much for joining us.

Nav: You’re welcome. It was a pleasure and thank you both for what you’re doing and I look forward to listening to this podcast.

Joe: And thank you all for listening to On Boards with our special guest, Nav Singh.

Raza: Please visit our website at OnBoardsPodcast.com. That’s OnBoardsPodcast.com. We’d love to hear your comments, suggestions, and feedback. And if you’re not already a subscriber, please be sure to subscribe at Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts, and remember to leave us a five-star review.

Joe: Please stay safe and take care of yourselves, your families, and your communities as best you can. We hope you’ll tune in for the next episode of On Boards. Thanks.