Survival Guide: How Ivy Silver prepares for board meetings
By April Hall

Ivy Silver - Director: Fulton Bank; CIMG. Advisor, Recovery Record, TechGirlz, DesignPhiladelphia

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 1960’s. 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. Then she tries to address the issue one-on-one before the full board meeting.

“When you’re young on a board, you need to get to know the political players,” she says. So she approaches an issue in a non-threatening way.

She’s also learned when to step out of touchy circumstances if needed and find the right people in an organization to handle problems.

She recently had a major issue with a committee person. To resolve it she involved counsel to “be sure the conversation was being had in the right places.”

It was a “fiduciary and compliance issue,” she says, and she had to balance any risk of having the conversation with the benefits of addressing the problem.

After addressing it appropriately, connecting with counsel and then stepping out of the conversation, the issue was resolved within three months. “I think it benefited [the relationships] to know when to add something and when to step back,” she says.

Her general prep work for board meetings is fairly simple. Since she may be up at 5 a.m. to get her day started, she packs protein bars in her bag to keep her energy level up.

As for her image in the boardroom, she is 5-feet-three-quarters-inches tall, and says she’s aware of how her stature can affect professional perception. So she raises her chair a few inches to be at the same height as her male counterparts.

Finally, she keeps a log of what she wears so she can switch up her wardrobe from meeting to meeting rather than slipping into a uniform of the same colors or pieces. 

2018 Third Quarter

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