Is your board the place where good ideas go to die?

A story all to commonly told.


You have an idea, a really good idea, an idea you know will change the direction of the company, the destiny of the people who work there, the lives of your customers and clients. Then you ‘take it to the board’.

Your idea remains an idea because your board is the place where ideas go to die!

What a tragedy!


Two thoughts in this regard.

Firstly, for the board. Boards need to seriously, really seriously consider how they deal with ideas. In fact, one critical component to the work of the board is to deal with ideas – their own ideas (obviously) but also the ideas of others. As boards we need to continually examine how many ideas we have killed, or bottled up – and what this is doing to our own thinking and the thinking of the people we are leading. Some crucial questions to ask include

  1. Do we have an ‘idea nurturing process’ – that allows us to open up the idea, to unpack it, to understand it – and then to channel it appropriately (back to whence it came (to be nurtured more), forward into our strategy, sideways into other opportunities, combined with other ideas)? We must do something with each idea – we cannot leave ideas alone and neglect them – ideas left alone tend to die, they need to be nurtured!
  2. Do we have an ‘idea implementation process’? Do we take ideas to decisions? Do we move beyond the decision and spell out accountability and responsibility, amend any authority that is required and ensure adequate disclosure to hold people accountable to the decision (and the idea)?
  3. Do we have an ‘idea evaluation process’? Do we have a way to track the idea from analysis to implementation and through to impact? Can we properly review each idea to fruition to understand which ones succeeded and which ones failed, where they came from, why they either succeeded or failed – and what we can learn from each and every ‘idea journey’ so that we can better nurture an harvest each and every idea that emerges.


Secondly to ‘idea-generator’. If you take an idea (a good idea, a valuable idea – one that you know that you know is needed) to your board do your very, very, very best to ensure that it does not die there! To do this we need to remember that

  1. Ideas and time are often closely linked – an idea, in the right time, comes to fruition. sometimes patience is the best thing to develop. Ask yourself what is the timing of this idea – a timely idea is more likely to succeed. If the time is right push harder, if not back off.
  2. Ideas are like seeds – they need to be placed in the right environment, and the environment needs the right characteristics and capacity to nurture ideas. Ask yourself the following questions. What is the environment like here for ideas? What is the capacity of the environment for ideas (maybe there are other ideas being nurtured that you are unaware of – rejecting your idea now is not necessarily rejecting it forever). Understand the environment – and how this impacts your idea – and this will give you insight in what to do with your idea.
  3. Ideas seldom work alone. Ideas often require other ideas to grow and develop – to mature. Ask your self – what other ideas is this idea dependent on? If these are ‘in play’ your idea will take root much quicker and be more resilient. When ideas combine with other ideas well the final result is often far, far better than the original singular idea.


Too many ideas that should not die do die simply because we do not have a way (some system or process) to deal with them – but also because we do not think through what I call the ‘idea context’ more robustly.


Into the future let’s all deal with ideas better so that our boards are not places ideas go to die!

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