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.

4 in 5 Americans Are Ignoring Buffett's Warning

Don't be one of them.

Jun 12, 2015 at 5:01PM

Admitting fear is difficult.

So you can imagine how shocked I was to find out Warren Buffett recently told a select number of investors about the cutting-edge technology that's keeping him awake at night.

This past May, The Motley Fool sent 8 of its best stock analysts to Omaha, Nebraska to attend the Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholder meeting. CEO Warren Buffett and Vice Chairman Charlie Munger fielded questions for nearly 6 hours.
The catch was: Attendees weren't allowed to record any of it. No audio. No video. 

Our team of analysts wrote down every single word Buffett and Munger uttered. Over 16,000 words. But only two words stood out to me as I read the detailed transcript of the event: "Real threat."

That's how Buffett responded when asked about this emerging market that is already expected to be worth more than $2 trillion in the U.S. alone. Google has already put some of its best engineers behind the technology powering this trend. 

The amazing thing is, while Buffett may be nervous, the rest of us can invest in this new industry BEFORE the old money realizes what hit them.

KPMG advises we're "on the cusp of revolutionary change" coming much "sooner than you think."

Even one legendary MIT professor had to recant his position that the technology was "beyond the capability of computer science." (He recently confessed to The Wall Street Journal that he's now a believer and amazed "how quickly this technology caught on.")

Yet according to one J.D. Power and Associates survey, only 1 in 5 Americans are even interested in this technology, much less ready to invest in it. Needless to say, you haven't missed your window of opportunity. 

Think about how many amazing technologies you've watched soar to new heights while you kick yourself thinking, "I knew about that technology before everyone was talking about it, but I just sat on my hands." 

Don't let that happen again. This time, it should be your family telling you, "I can't believe you knew about and invested in that technology so early on."

That's why I hope you take just a few minutes to access the exclusive research our team of analysts has put together on this industry and the one stock positioned to capitalize on this major shift.

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David Hanson owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway and American Express. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway, Google, and Coca-Cola.We Fools don't 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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