General Electric Company Is Like a Start-Up With Unlimited Resources

It has an entrepreneurial spirit that's unmatched for its size.

Jul 13, 2014 at 10:40AM

With more than 300,000 employees worldwide, "start-up" and "General Electric" (NYSE:GE) don't often find their way into the same sentence. But despite its massive size, General Electric has managed to cultivate an entrepreneurial spirit that more closely mirrors a start-up environment than a multinational conglomerate. One of General Electric's secret weapons is how it welcomes openness between its divisions as a means to accelerate the pace of innovation across the company.

For instance, General Electric's aviation division hosted an open design challenge to reimagine a traditionally manufactured jet engine bracket for 3-D printing. The results were so promising that a host of other businesses within General Electric are now looking into how they can also use advanced manufacturing technologies and community-driven efforts to cultivate innovation.

In the following video, 3-D printing specialist Steve Heller asks Stephan Biller, chief manufacturing scientist at General Electric, what it's like to work for GE. Although it's difficult to measure culture, General Electric investors should be pleased that the company is constantly learning in hopes to improve its competitive positioning.

A full transcript follows the video.

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Steve Heller: I wanted to talk to you about the culture at GE. What is it like to work at General Electric?

Stephan Biller: GE is an amazing place. I'm fortunate enough to work at GE Global Research, and the best thing for me is, if you look at our Chairman, our CEO Jeff Immelt's priorities, innovation is number one. He talks about advanced manufacturing all the time, so the priority the company is putting on both innovation and on manufacturing in particular, it's really magnificent. For a guy like me, who loves research and manufacturing, there's really no better place to be.

Heller: It feels like, even though it's such a large business, it almost has a small business, entrepreneurial spirit to it.

Biller: It absolutely does. Most of our research is funded by the businesses, so they really have to want this. If we don't produce what they want, they're just going to cut off all funding, so we are really on that cusp of innovation where we do market-driven innovation. The business wants it, we do it. They don't want it, we're not going to do it.

Heller: It's almost like a start-up environment, in an unusual way.

Biller: It is, and the best part of that start-up environment is, if I have an idea, everybody in that environment can help me make this. If I have an idea and I want to push this, I have like 50 different disciplines up at GE Research, all contributing in a different way, so I can assemble a team that, honestly, no start-up can really assemble in that complexity. It's very powerful, and a lot of fun.

Heller: Great. Thank you so much for your time today, Stephan.

Biller: Thank you. Take care.

Steve Heller has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of General Electric Company. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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