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Board's Essential Question: Who is the CQO?

This is one of my favorite times of year in our nation’s capital - #Nats take the field, temps rise, and pink flowers dot the Tidal Basin. Last week marked 111 years since the cherry blossom tradition started in #washingtondc. But the CHATter wasn’t just about ‘peak bloom.’ AI, tech regulation, and #ChatGPT seemed to be dominating a lot of DC conversations, especially on #capitolhill.


It’s fitting perhaps that this conversation coincides with one of my favorite “Nyla” photos. My grandmother, Nyla #1 (of 4), posing happily in 1944 along the same trees that bloom today. Don’t let her demure smile fool you - this woman was a ‘STEM punk’ of her day, working on national security chemistry missions at the Naval Research Lab during WWII. She was a constant learner and early adopter of technology, always trying to one-up me with her computer know-how until her last days. I can only imagine what she would say if she were listening to the conversations in DC now. Knowing her, she'd be curious and excited, but also cautious about the risks, and as a researcher herself, she’d be making sure the original authors get their due credit. She'd be laughing at the news about regulation and wondering if we're limiting ourselves with our fear of technology.




See the thing about Nyla #1 is that she lived in a challenging era, yet still served as our family CEO, emanated technical cunning, leadership swagger, and open-mindedness - as a kicka$$ scientist, wife, and mother. I routinely recall what I refer to as her three Nyla-isms: 1) enjoy the gray because nothing is black and white, 2) don’t be afraid of what you don’t know, and 3) hard work mitigates risks. In today's world of #AI and #tech, I harken to how these truths apply to a rapidly changing leadership landscape.


But what would she say to me, Nyla #3, as a strategy and growth executive about the most recent debates on generative AI? Her inner cunning voice would be screaming “don’t be a lazy executive who takes things at face value!” Her external voice would be reminding me that as a leader, it’s incumbent to get the facts, insights, and perspectives - including AI generated ones - but to do the homework oneself to assess the best course of action. No doubt she believed that if you're not adapting to new technology, you'll be left behind. It's not without risk, but neither was synthetic rubber and oil during WWII. We need to #learn, #adapt, and #lead with technology to gain the most benefits.


If you want to lead successfully, you need to know how to have multiple perspectives and not just blindly accept information. Don't be that weak executive who jumps to accept or conversely, regulate, something before even understanding it. Whether you’re a #CEO, #CSO, C-anything-O, it’s time to embrace the role of a Chief Query Officer. For example, don't just take a market analysis at face value - ask questions and understand the bias and source of information.


How do her -isms apply to another generation of business and tech leadership? I think I could sum it up in a few phrases:

  • Learn it.

  • Mitigate it.

  • Lead with it.

Learn it. Tech doesn’t go away, but it evolves. If you are fighting against it, be prepared to be replaced. If you’re learning it and seeing how to add your unique value to it, you’re poised for growth.


Mitigate it. No #innovation is without risk, even if longer-term. The synthetic rubber and oil that provided the US with air and naval superiority in WWII has had environmental repercussions. But would we have not used it for fear of the risks?


Lead with it. Those that learn, mitigate, and apply technology stand to benefit the most. Those who see this as just another tool in their tool box will no doubt learn to lead with better insights, broader perspectives, and faster decision-making capacity.


As someone who learned from four generations of Nylas, I believe we're at an exciting time of innovation. Let's not shy away from the risks - let's learn, mitigate, and lead to make the most of these new tools. As technology continues to advance, the need for effective #risk mitigation strategies becomes increasingly crucial for corporations. By taking on the role of a Chief Query Officer, I aim to assist companies in navigating this landscape of technological change and transformation through diligent inquiry and proactive leadership. We need to stop prohibiting things before we truly understand them. As leaders, we need to prove that we can regulate ourselves before external organizations step in. So ask again and again and again, and know where your answers come from. Only then can you be a good enough executive to be your own query officer.

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