Apr 06 2015

What If Boardrooms Went All In with Virtual Reality?

The headsets that many use for gaming could also have transformational applications in the business world.

Boardrooms that incorporate high-definition video conferencing technology are the pinnacle of the cutting edge in today’s business environment. But what if the future of board meetings isn’t tied to giant video monitors but is instead shaped and experienced through virtual-reality technology?

David Lancefield and Carlo Gagliardi, both strategists at PwC, dared to imagine this VR-fueled future in a recent article for Harvard Business Review. The two point out that VR could put board members in customers’ shoes and, ultimately, ensure a tighter alignment between the board and its company.

Through virtual-reality technology, for instance, boards could gain a deeper understanding of their companies and the value they create. In a gaming context, the idea is to put on a headset and enter a different world, try on a different perspective. (Some headsets really immerse you in the experience.) But business applications for VR are starting to take off, too.

By using the technology to play the role of customer, investor, product developer, factory worker, and so on — making the kinds of choices they must make — board members could see the business (somewhat literally) from various stakeholders’ vantage points. It would be an antidote to the insularity that so many boards are criticized for, and a useful complement to the simulations and war-game tools that help with scenario planning and anticipating competitors’ moves.

This increased transparency and tighter alignment would present a number of challenges. One of them is a shift in the dynamic between the board and the company’s executive team. Corporate leadership would be inclined to hide or filter such information from board members, lest it be misinterpreted, Lancefield and Gagliardi write.

In other words, corporate board meetings could start to look and feel as daunting as the World Security Council meetings that Samuel Jackson’s Nick Fury has to endure in Marvel’s Avengers movies.

Credit: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures/Marvel Studios

But ultimately, while getting up close and personal with your board could certainly rub some executives the wrong way, the fact that we’re even discussing business uses for VR technology like this is more exciting than intimidating.

Plus, the chances of board members dozing off during important meetings will likely decrease dramatically if they have Oculus Rifts strapped to their heads, stimulating their senses.


Become an Insider

Unlock white papers, personalized recommendations and other premium content for an in-depth look at evolving IT