Bionic Solution’s SVP Janice Fraser on Managing Entrepreneurship in the Enterprise

Janice Fraser is a recognized expert on emerging management practices to support innovation at scale. She has coached many organizations including the White House, Navy Seals Training Command, Lyft, and Proctor & Gamble. This presentation was recorded at the Inside/Outside Innovation Summit in Lincoln, Nebraska. More videos from the 3-day conference can be found here.


“For 100 years, management practices have empathized planning and control as a means of ensuring predictability. But, when change is your greatest threat, plans and predictions are literally unbelievable. The result of that reality is a profound and intractable failure to grow.”

Janice defined 2 types of growth: the nothing-to-something growth found in startups, and the big-to-bigger optimization growth found in the enterprise. She believes large companies can and should rediscover startup growth.

“Large corporations can only rediscover how to grow like startup if they’re willing to make, value, and nurture something very, very small.” They have to realize that you can’t treat an infant startup the way that you’d treat an extremely large, $100 million business. Startups learn to walk. Large businesses learn to sprint just a little bit faster. These 2 very different stages of growth call for different management styles

2 Types of Growth

  1. Nothing to something management means you can grow at will.
  2. Big to bigger management means you can optimize at will. “If we can spend a penny and get 1.001 pennies out of the other end because we’ve optimized something, that’s a good thing.”

How does a corporation manage for nothing-to-something growth?


These programs aren’t good enough anymore:

  • It’s not sufficient to do an entrepreneur weekend.
  • No entrepreneur theatre.
  • No entrepreneur tourism — taking your executives to Silicon Valley and walking them through the halls of Google and Amazon.

These are good efforts, but they don’t change how we manage for real growth. Companies need a new management protocol somewhere in the enterprise. One that manages for nothing-to-something growth, not big-to-bigger optimization growth.

Ultimately, I’m proposing that new management approach that transforms the risk of change into an asset by supporting real entrepreneurship and venture-style investing in large companies.

Here’s how corporations might implement this new style of management:

  1. Establish small, cross-functional teams — 100% dedicated. Part-time just doesn’t work. These small teams will explore hunting grounds for high-value customer problems to solve. They’re going to solve these problems by leveraging the proprietary gifts of the company.

2. Teams are funded by internal venture board of top company leaders — It has to go all the way to the very top of even the largest corporations. Leaders give permissions and protections to these little teams.

3. Teams operate with autonomy — These are entrepreneurs. They’re expected to and given space to go figure it out.

In addition to the old, you have a whole new. Leaders will learn to manage for optimization and growth. Too many innovation initiatives have already been lost to leaders who want to hold them to the same standards as large business units.

Bonus Tips for Innovation Managers

  • If you run an innovation program, end your addiction to being right. You got the job by being right. The problem with being right when you’re creating something from nothing is that you’re wrong more than you’re right, so you’re messing things up by pretending to be right. If you believe that you have the answers, you are blocking the insights that a good entrepreneurial approach will bring — ‘your experiment is bad.’, ‘your metrics are bad’, etc. Instead, move from answer-based leadership to question-based leadership. Your job as an ambidextrous leader is to ask questions — ‘what is the highest risk thing that you should explore next?’, ‘what did we learn about?’, etc. These are the questions that are going to get you to the commercial truth.
  • Setup ‘information radiators’ — a place to track your progress quantitatively.
  • ‘Pivot or persevere’ meetings’ — Schedule them. If you don’t know about these, learn more about Lean Startup

For more on each of the above points, watch the full presentation here. Contact Janice directly on LinkedIn.

Get the book mentioned by Janice at the start of her presentation — Orbiting the Giant Hairball: A Corporate Fool’s Guide to Surviving with Grace (or, as Janice describes it, a book about “how innovation worked at Hallmark, a great Kansas-based company.”)

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