Five Questions to ask your Board about Innovation

The future may be uncertain, but one certainty is that innovative thinking is needed for any organisation to survive. Boards need to keep their eye on the long-term and work to ensure the future sustainability and continuity of the business. Here are five questions to ask your board about its approach to innovation.

1. Is innovation on the agenda?

If it’s not, you’re probably not talking about it. If you’re not talking about it, you’re probably not doing it.

Make some space on your regular agenda (either monthly or quarterly) to talk about innovation, trends, ideas, what and how the organisation is doing in this space, and what other organisations are doing (even those not in your industry).

2. Do we have a way to surface innovative thinking / fresh ideas?

Having innovation on the agenda certainly opens up the conversation. Having a process that brings creative ideas and thinking to the board is the next stage in having rewarding conversations on the board.

There are many ways to surface innovative ideas and fresh thinking. It could come from the board members, via a committee, from an advisor, from within the organisation, or from a speaker session / board development session.

Surfacing new ideas could be from a loose and free-flowing method (e.g. spit-balling ideas), from a suggestion box or something similar, or purpose-driven by a current problem, issue, or opportunity.

Have a process that people can follow so that great ideas can actually reach the boardroom.

3. Do we have a Research & Development budget?

Even a small amount helps you have some skin in the game. It could even just be a time budget. Work towards having at least something invested that works proactively towards exploring and testing new product/service ideas and/or internal work methods. For example, a day a month or a day a quarter set aside to work on new ideas or making improvements.

Adding in time for regular reviews and checks of these pursuits ensure you’re that you’re not throwing good money after bad, and that changes and innovations are successfully embedded.

4. Have we set the big, bold vision?

The board needs to be defining what is possible for the organisation to achieve in the future. Setting the right vision helps with ongoing improvements and large-scale innovation. This vision should help drive the business activities, actions, decisions, resource allocation, and culture towards achieving desired innovation objectives.

5. Are we standing in the way?

The board – or certainly at least some of them – need to be capable of encouraging and overseeing an innovation programme. There may be individual knowledge or skill gaps, or certain self-defeating mindsets that need to be managed. Develop strategies that minimise the impact of these gaps on the organisation’s innovation potential.


Innovation is within the reach of every organisation from any industry. Intentionally investing the board’s time and energy into innovation will reap positive rewards for the organisation.

What questions will you be asking at your next board meeting?

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