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Companies and organizations turn to governing boards for so many critical elements these days.
Boards of Directors guide overall strategy and direction. Appointed Audit Committees pore over corporate financials and performance. HR / Compensation Committees ensure the organization’s on track with hiring and benefits that keep it competitive. Each has been formed to inform, advice and support the CEO in his or her the ethical- and policy-backed pursuit of protecting shareholder / stakeholder interests.
Yet in the Age of Sarbanes Oxley-like governance across the organization, why doesn’t innovation have such oversight?
While attending the CEDEP “Innovation-In -Action” this April at the Insead Business School‘s Europe Campus in Fontainebleau, France, business leaders and top minds in innovation mulled the importance of creativity and new thinking in the organization. We discussed how innovation “tournaments” can drive critical thought, how capability-building drives ROI amid investable propositions, and how to create and nurture innovation champions from the bottom up who overcome organizational resistance.
At the CEDEP event, I spoke with Andrew Sleigh, the former group Managing Director and Chief Technology Officer with robotics and defense contractor QinetiQ, and an adjunct professor at London’s Imperial College. Andrew is a strong advocate of innovation governance. His beliefs in many ways mirror the 10 Imperatives in Robert’s Rules of Innovation that are required from a Governance perspective. Andrew espouses – among eight concepts, the value of innovation, skills assessments, and creating incentives to reward effective efforts.
Innovation Governance would require appropriate audit capabilities to measure outcomes, a board-level framework to ensure input and involvement, and explicit engagement with executives across the organization – just like any company or organization faces with SOX-type governance. A Chief Innovation Officer and or CEO would be getting board mental and policy backing.
Without this framework – and governance oversight, many innovation initiatives fail to take deep-seeded root within the organization.
The real issue boils down to the well-being of the organization – and the board’s willingness to create an environment that fosters sustainable health and continued growth. Governance with regard to innovation is more than just another committee. Competitive forces – especially in organizations that have been leaned-down, streamlined and fat-trimmed to the bone – beg the wise, thoughtful implementation of innovation. Assuming board members and executive leadership agree that we’ve lived through the decade of growth through Mergers & Acquisitions, and maxed out the value gained from lean manufacturing and operations, profitable growth drivers will have to be derived someplace else.
I would argue that well-considered innovation and related intellectual property will be the growth driver in the 21st Century. To make that happen, you need to elevate innovation higher than just the CEO or a C-level innovation exec. Beyond his or her required inspiration. It will have to encompass the entire C-Suite, the board – and the governance policies that guide them.
Robert Brands is the founder of InnovationCoach.com, and the author of “Robert’s Rules of Innovation“: A 10-Step Program for Corporate Survival, with Martin Kleinman, published March 15, 2010 by Wiley.