Epistemic communities - something society should value

I had the pleasure of attending a very interesting workshop on risk last week - one of those events that stretches the mind. Central to the discussions were a series of questions about how the world of business has evolved over the past 50 years and whether the mechanisms that have been created to ensure its orderly operation are fit for purpose.

What hit me again is that despite a lot of corporate effort, the legal, organisational and systems construct of business has made it naturally inward looking. This inward orientation is further reinforced by the silos of activity we have created in the name of specialisation. As a result too few people understand the whole organisation and even fewer see or understand its interactions and dependencies with the wider world.

In this context, perhaps we need to be questioning the role and impact that standardised approaches to enterprise risk management and reporting have had on the span of corporate vision and organisational behaviours.

In this regard, you might be interested in a recent article, Benefits of Comprehensive Integrated Reporting, which I co-authored for FEI magazine with Liv Watson and Mike Willis.  It makes the case for why integrated reporting is so important to management as it provides the holistic view needed to understand the increasingly complex value proposition of a business. 

During a coffee break at this risk event I was engaged in a conversation on "epistemic communities" - a term that I have to admit was new to me. Put simply it is networks of knowledge-base experts. It is increasingly recognised that these communities have a central role to play in articulating the cause-and-effect relationships of complex problems, framing issues for collective debates and proposing policy solutions.

It became clear from my conversation how critical these groups are to the future of society and economic activity - they have the skills, knowledge and mind set capable of seeing issues which the majority of the population are oblivious to.

On reflection this put into clearer context the work of the International Integrated Reporting Committee (IIRC) and the epistemic community that has come together to make the case for integrated reporting to the G20.

It is also a timely opportunity for me to mention again the important research study into the reporting system which CIMA, Tomorrow's Company and PwC have been undertaking over the past six months. This report will be launched next month and will, I believe, start a critical debate about the future of this core system.