Is your Board killing your innovation?

A recent paper from The Harvard Business School asks, “if everyone knows innovation is critical for success then why do board members not rank it highly in their list of priorities?” In fact, the report goes on to say that they also don’t feel that technology and innovation are things that they do well. In fact, they are dismissing technology on an ongoing basis, when asked what skills they look for in new board members very few listed technology experience in their list of requirements and innovation/change management or culture were not given a mention. 

Technology and innovation are drivers of digital transformation.  This does not bode well for the digital transformation projects that we expect businesses to put in place in the coming months and years. Without the right culture these projects will be doomed to failure. A lack of technology experience and innovative culture also leaves businesses open to disruption. While board members may have experience of the markets that they operate in disruption can often come from outside the industry where innovation has accelerated to such an extent that it becomes a valid challenger across more than its own market. This all means that if creating the right culture for innovation and technology to succeed isn’t something that’s being discussed in the boardroom, then it’s not surprising that there is such a gap between the culture we want, and the one we actually have. 

How can you overcome the gap and create a board that embraces the cultural change necessary for digital transformation? 

Given the value of a clear and distinct culture, what can we do to bridge that cultural and knowledge gap? First and foremost, senior leaders need to be visible in the business and in doing so, personifying and being a role model of the desired culture. Research by James Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner, which forms the basis of The Leadership Challenge , found that credibility is the foundation of Leadership, which is why ‘Modelling the Way’ is one of the 5 Practices of Exemplary Leadership®. You can’t ask your people to behave in a way that is congruent with your articulated culture when you as a leader do something different. After all, people will follow what you do not what you say – words are cheap; actions count!