Is there risk in going outside industry in board selection?

I recently was made aware of a board selection to a very large organization and the board member elect was from outside the industry, but brought a wealth of knowledge and general business experience. I believe this organization seized the opportunity to "do things differently" and introduce an external bias that may be able to challenge their thinking. What are your thoughts?

Jeanne,
If the board member selected is committed to the mission and goals of the organization, bringing in an outsider with this type of experience could be very valuable. If the balance of the board respects the individual for their business perspective, it could be instrumental to achieving the organization's goal of looking at things with a different perspective and to challenge the conventional wisdom of the existing board. A comprehensive orientation plan would also be needed to integrate the new member's business experiences with the board's history and objectives.
Dr. Robert Roehrich

Diversity of perspective and experience are valuable board member attributes, especially when founded in commitment to the organization's mission, vision and success.

Elizabeth,
It's a double edged sword, the risk associated with going outside of the industry is the ramp-up time for the candidate to begin to fully understand the climate and challenges of operating a school. The plus side is that you bring in different perspectives and transferable experiences. In the current environment of federal regulation and the anti-for-profit directives coming out of the DOE, it would be better to find someone who has the experience and credibility within the industry to serve on a board. I would recommend looking for someone who has both of these attributes and a diverse set of experiences within our sector.
Dr. Robert Roehrich