How Ivy Silver prepares for board meetings.

Author:Hall, April
Position:Survival Guide

When Ivy Silver approaches board work, she employs "design thinking." She describes the concept as "about the user experience. It's very much the idea of how customers actually engage in experiences."

Design thinking has been used as a business practice since the 1960s. Basically, design thinking uses a synthesis of a host of ideas--known and ambiguous--to solve an issue, as opposed to an analysis of just existing theories. It brings some of the creativity we find in design to solving business matters.

Silver has found design thinking to be helpful. "It comes down to 'What is really going on here? What do we really need to know?'," she says.

When preparing for a board meeting and reviewing board materials, she uses that approach to distill, "What's the one question I need to ask?"

Design thinking also helps her evaluate how to test pilot programs or products.

For example, while serving on a company's advisory board, Silver says she found an online medical management tool the company produced which was designed for physicians was also being used by a different group of medical professionals.

"I saw that as an opportunity to brand and market to the unintended users," she says. "That cascaded to reveal a whole host of other medical applications of similar, but slightly different audiences that inevitably lead to an entire new business line and second name for this divergent product development.

By piloting ideas before going full-force into something, she's able to uncover what led someone to approach a project in a particular way. The knowledge, she says, helps her "understand how they came to certain conclusions, and how to constantly evaluate and adjust slightly right or slightly left if they really need to."

She says more companies should embrace the theories of design thinking and bring creativity to business decisions.

An experienced businesswoman who has worked with companies on employee benefits, most recently founding a company, Mily-on LLC, a firm that designs and builds made-to-order architectural moments and products, she's been in the boardroom for nearly a decade serving not only public corporations, but also serving non-profits.

In addition to design thinking, Silver also uses discretion in the boardroom to address sometimes sensitive or difficult topics.

First, she prepares for the discussion ahead of time...

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