Companies like GE, Citibank, and Dropbox have borrowed a tool from startups to avoid getting boring and stuck

silicon valley

Big companies like GE and
Citibank are emulating Silicon Valley


  • Large companies like GE and Citibank have in recent
    years developed project-focused teams that act like
  • “The Lean Startup” author Eric Ries has guided many of
    these programs.
  • These companies utilize “growth board” meetings to
    ensure the efficiency of entrepreneurial goals.

When former General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt finished reading
Eric Ries’ 2011 book “The
Lean Startup
” not long after it was published, he was so
inspired that
he soon made the book required reading for managers
the company and hired Ries as a consultant.

Immelt and Ries developed FastWorks, an initiative to implement
Ries’ entrepreneurial ethos into GE, for the purpose of
reinvigorating the company with the ability to quickly and
efficiently pursue exciting ideas.

Part of this process was the development of “group boards,” teams
of employees that would meet regularly and behave the way a board
of investors would for a young startup. Ries explained in his
latest book, “The
Startup Way
,” what these group board meetings entail and why
they are now important elements of companies like GE, Citibank,
and Dropbox.

It’s like creating a mini venture capital firm within the company

Ries wrote that the idea of a growth board is a simple concept:
“In a startup, the board generally hears from company founders.
An internal growth board in a bigger organization creates a
single point of accountability for teams that are operating as

A group board has three responsibilities: Ensuring that the
“startup” team is held accountable to goals, acting as the
mediator between the team and the rest of the company, and to
supply “metered funding” by setting restrictions on both time and
money for specific projects.

Ries worked with David Kidder, CEO of the management consulting
firm Bionic, to implement growth boards at GE. Kidder told Ries
that the ideal growth board should comprise six to eight C-suite
level executives, meet at least once per quarter, make final
decisions rather than rely on follow-up discussions, focus on
data, and not allow proxy votes.

These growth boards bring order and accountability to ambitious
experiments. For example, GE’s FastWorks projects have ranged
from building a cutting edge refrigerator in a fraction of the
time it used to take between model iterations to energy-efficient
gas turbines.

Ries said that in GE’s oil and gas sector specifically, the
addition of growth boards completely ended a cycle of wasting
time and money on ambitious but sloppy projects within nine

“Nine months from expensive, never-ending zombie projects to
self-sufficient product teams making their own well-informed
decisions about whether to proceed,” Ries wrote.



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