I recently provided five reasons why executives do a poor job on innovation and although this makes it difficult for innovation leaders to do their job, I am glad to say that things are changing for the better.
A new generation of executives that knows the importance of innovation has begun to emerge and this will provide a more healthy balance of innovation versus cost cutting in many companies.
The bad news is that we are still stuck with “old-school” boards of directors that seem to be quite far away from the new way of thinking innovation. This is actually an even bigger problem as board of directors indirectly holds more power than the CEO when it comes to innovation. You can read some of my views on this here: Efficiency versus Innovation: Who Wins?
An obvious solution to this problem is to bring more diversity to boards of directors, but this is not done easily as Jean-Francois Manzoni, Paul Strebel and Jean-Louis Barsoux explains in this great article: Why Diversity Can Backfire on Company Boards.
This includes this piece:
“As much as diversity is something we prize, the truth is that people often feel baffled, threatened or even annoyed by persons with views and backgrounds very different from their own. The result is that when directors are appointed because their views or backgrounds are different, they often are isolated and ignored. Constructive disagreements spill over into personal battles.
But the solution is not to give up and avoid diversity. Rather, boards need to minimize the friction that diversity often introduces. To unlock the benefits, in short, boards must learn to work with colleagues who were selected not because they fit in—but because they don’t.”
In the article, the authors not only do a great job of identifying the reasons why diversity often fails. They also chip in with good advice on how to approach this.
Unfortunately, I think we are still in the early stages of their advised approach and thus we are going to be stuck with inept board of directions when it comes to developing the innovation capabilities of a company for a long time.
Although, I don’t really see any short-term solutions, I think we will see a faster change of mindset and approaches on this as many companies are will go down in the near future (when the economy gets back on track) because of their lack of innovation.
This is not really a positive way to end this blog post, but perhaps you can help with some different perspectives.