Executive Innovation Chairman 

Day 186 Week 27 Q3 Thursday, July 6, 2023

There is a strong tendency today in society to worship celebrity. I do not know what happened to being internally referenced and having checks and balances, but it is clear that absolute power tends to corrupt. The centralization of power is not great for innovation. Ideas typically must run a gauntlet to get adopted, and having impenetrable boundaries is not the way of change. Ideas and technologies have to seep through and change their form along the way to achieve their potential.

When business or political leaders have too much power, it tends to limit collaborative adaptation. Some fantastic leaders are brilliant forces of convergence guiding their entities to greater heights.  But most leaders do not fall into this category even if their ego propels them to believe they are. 

One case in point, is when the CEO of a tech company is also the Chairman of the Board. Not only does this destroy the checks and balances a young inexperienced CEO needs to progress, but it can propel them into an upward ego spiral deifying them in the process if they look like they may be able to make a lot of money. 

It is clear that a CEO is responsible for returning shareholder value, but over what time frame? Long-term or short-term? And for what size enterprise, small or large? And besides the fiscal and legal perspectives, what about the innovation perspective?

Yes, companies have to make money and obey the law, but is there an innovation angle to explore here?  There are certainly examples of this concentration of power truly working well from an innovation perspective. In the tech sector, HP was one, Apple another and Bose Corporation as well, were all led by amazing individuals who managed to grow not only from technical capability to management and executive capability but all of the way up to governance, where they presided over the board of directors.  This is not the norm, and most young CEOs are not going to be able to do this, no matter how large their ego becomes and how deified society makes them.

It is extremely short-sighted for society’s predilection for celebrities and celebrity to carry forth and dominate governance, especially when it comes to innovation. Ideas can come from anywhere, and if shut out, the larger enterprise can suffer. 

Is there a role for innovation governance? Can there be board members who know a lot about bringing ideas to fruition? Sure, we need tax and legal experts, but what about idea experts or innovation experts? There are many dances for executives to dance. And they are not the same dances that board members have to dance. They do not have the same priorities or the same responsibilities. They also do not have the same relationship with insight, ideation and innovation either.  

Food for thought.