Disruptive Innovations Is Top Issue For Corporate Directors

© AdobeStock
Survey by Corporate Board Member and Grant Thornton LLP finds that a quarter of public company directors wish for more time discussing disruptive technologies and innovations.

STAMFORD, CT [January 17, 2019] – Corporate Board Member, a division of Chief Executive Group and a market leader in board education, along with Grant Thornton LLP, a leading accounting, tax and advisory firm, have released the results of the 16th annual What Directors Think survey, which reflects the opinions of 249 directors at publicly traded U.S. companies.

For the first time in six years, disruptive technologies and innovations have replaced long-term growth strategy as the #1 issue to which directors wish they could devote more time. Earning the top spot with 23% of the votes, disruptions have surpassed growth strategy by seven percentage points—and the red-hot issue of cybersecurity by nine—in the list of topics directors believe their boards aren’t addressing as much as they should.

“Directors understand that new technologies can change—and have changed—industries overnight and that keeping on top of innovation is critical,” says Melanie Nolen, research editor at Corporate Board Member. “The risks and rewards of keeping ahead of the curve or falling behind have never been greater, which is why technology has now been elevated to a board matter that is material to the strategy discussion.”

“A generation ago technology was largely seen by boards as an infrastructure component and an escalating cost to be managed,” says Steve Perkins, COO, U.S. advisory practice and national managing director of technology, media and telecommunication at Grant Thornton LLP. “Today technology is largely synonymous with corporate strategy in a disrupt-or-be-disrupted world—in all industries.”

The survey finds that seven out of 10 directors are confident they have the resources to move their company forward amid this disruption.

“It’s really all about asking the right questions,” Nolen says. “We’ve observed this scenario with cybersecurity a few years ago when the conversation focused on whether or not boards needed to onboard directors with specific IT skills. Boards without relevant IT skills aren’t necessarily set up for failure. But those boards have the responsibility to get educated about what to ask of management to ensure nothing slips through the cracks on their watch.”

In that vein, 64% of directors surveyed said third-party experts help them in their oversight of IT risks, including cyber. This is another interesting trend reversal. Just two years ago, only 24% believed outside counsel could help them improve their oversight of cybersecurity. This year, 62% have consulted with experts regarding cyber risk management.

Related to this shift, Brad Preber, chairman of the Grant Thornton Partnership Board commented, “With the complexity and novelty of risk changing at the speed of thought, boards are recognizing that on-demand expertise is the ‘new normal.’ There is recognition that no single enterprise can, or should, reasonably employ all the talent needed to respond to the risks of the future.”

The 16th annual What Directors Think survey results are available for download at BoardMember.com/WhatDirectorsThink. Other key findings include:

• 56% have adopted a social responsibility policy

• 48% say the current trade policy is the greatest downside risk to the economy, while a full third believe it’s the greatest upside

• 41% say the December 2017 corporate tax reform had a positive impact on their company’s growth strategy

• Gender diversity now ranks third on the list of criteria to select future board members, but 66% of directors are against California Senate Bill 826

• 53% say the FAANG companies have become too powerful in business and society, and 41% believe they should be regulated more

A webinar will be held on January 29 to discuss directors’ concerns and provide tangible advice to address their responsibilities in the year ahead. Visit https://go.boardmember.com/webinar-what-directors-think/ to learn more and register.

About Corporate Board Member

Corporate Board Member, a division of Chief Executive Group, has been the market leader in board education for 20 years. The quarterly publication provides public company board members, CEOs, general counsel and corporate secretaries decision-making tools to address the wide range of corporate governance, risk oversight and shareholder engagement issues facing their boards. Corporate Board Member further extends its thought leadership through online resources, webinars, timely research, conferences and peer-driven roundtables. The company maintains the most comprehensive database of directors and officers of publicly traded companies listed with NYSE, NYSE Amex and Nasdaq. Learn more at BoardMember.com

About Chief Executive Group

Chief Executive Group, the leading community for business leaders worldwide, publishes Chief Executive magazine (since 1977), ChiefExecutive.net, Corporate Board Member magazine and BoardMember.com, as well as conferences and roundtables that enable CEOs to discuss key subjects and share their experiences with their peers. The Group also runs the Chief Executive Network, the leading CEO membership organization arranged by industry, and facilitates the annual “CEO of the Year,” a prestigious honor bestowed upon an outstanding corporate leader, nominated and selected by a group of peers. Visit www.ChiefExecutive.net and www.BoardMember.com for more information.

About Grant Thornton

Founded in Chicago in 1924, Grant Thornton LLP (Grant Thornton) is the U.S. member firm of Grant Thornton International Ltd, one of the world’s leading organizations of independent audit, tax and advisory firms. Grant Thornton, which has revenues in excess of $1.8 billion and operates 59 offices, works with a broad range of dynamic publicly and privately held companies, government agencies, financial institutions, and civic and religious organizations.

“Grant Thornton” refers to Grant Thornton LLP, the U.S. member firm of Grant Thornton International Ltd (GTIL). GTIL and the member firms are not a worldwide partnership. Services are delivered by the member firms. GTIL and its member firms are not agents of, and do not obligate, one another and are not liable for one another’s acts or omissions. Please see grantthornton.com for further details.

  • Get the Corporate Board Member Newsletter

    Sign up today to get weekly access to exclusive analysis, insights and expert commentary from leading board practitioners.



    20th Annual Boardroom Summit

    New York, NY



    Board Committee Peer Exchange

    Chicago, IL