The Lean Startup,
By then, GE had developed an early version of Predix, an operating system like Windows or Android but for the Industrial Internet. The company developed applications for Predix enabling it to ingest and analyze vast amounts of data from sensor-equipped machines much like Amazon.com, Facebook, and Google do with information generated by their human customers. Immelt wanted to speed Predix’s development and use it on GE’S own equipment. That meant the entire company had to embrace the new operating system, even the power division, which usually took years to design turbines. There didn’t seem to be much need to rush out new models; GE’S power customers typically buy steam- or gas- powered turbines and use them for three decades.
The more Immelt watched what was happening in Silicon Valley, the more he became convinced GE needed a cultural revolution. He sought assistance from Eric Ries, a tech entrepreneur and author of a book that espouses the importance of releasing early versions of products, getting customer feedback, then “pivoting” or changing them if necessary to improve them. In 2012, GE asked Ries to speak to Immelt and some of his top executives at the Ossining training center.
Ries was so nervous that he wore a suit. When he arrived at the training center, he says he felt like he was entering an alternative universe. The day before, he’d been in Washington visiting members of the Obama administration. Yet when he mentioned the White House with the GE people, they thought he was talking about the building on campus where the bar used to be. “I’m a startup guy from San Francisco,” Ries says. “I was just like, ‘What on earth is happening here?’ ” Ries was expecting Immelt to be a brusque, Jack Welch-like character. Then the CEO showed up in jeans and kidded him about being overdressed. “‘I thought you were from Silicon Valley,’ ” Immelt told him. “‘What are you doing in a suit?’ ” Ries was charmed.
After Ries gave his presentation to the group, he opened the floor to questions. There was an awkward silence. “Jeff turns around, and he names one of his vice presidents, and he says, ‘How come you’re not already doing this?’ ” Ries remembers. “The guy was like, ‘Um, mumble-mumble-mumble.’ All of a sudden, there were a lot of questions in the room. It was like, ‘Message received. Jeff thinks there’s something here.’ ”
That afternoon, Ries started giving workshops for executives. He later helped GE tailor its own version of his methods, which the company calls Fastworks. He says Immelt wanted change, telling him: “‘I’m tired of hearing five-year plans.’ ” GE has since handed out thousands of copies of The Lean Startup and has trained tens of thousands of employees in the process. Everyone in upper management seems to use Silicon Valley- compliant vocabulary, particularly the word “pivot.” “We encourage people to try things, pivot, try them again,” Immelt says. “It’s a better way to run the place than centralized command and
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