GE CEO Immelt Touts Betting Big
Startups and venture capitalists aren't the only ones innovating, says Jeff Immelt, chairman and CEO of General Electric. The massive conglomerate takes advantage of its scale and financial resources to innovate and grow in such fields as energy and health care, Immelt told a packed crowd in Arthur Andersen Auditorium on Sept. 9.
"Professors teach you why GE shouldn't exist," Immelt said during the Dean's Speaker Series event. But in the past 30 years, the 125-year-old conglomerate has grown an average 12 percent a year, he noted. Not bad for a company expected to post $185 billion in revenue this year, Immelt pointed out.
"What we've tried to do is make scale an advantage," he said. "We bet on big things. We bet big on clean energy. We bet big on clean water," he added. "We want to own clean tech."
Unlike some Silicon Valley venture capitalists, Immelt said he believes "good-enough" technology or the "second-best solution," combined with scale, quality, and safety, will ultimately win out in the clean energy field.
GE also relies on globalization to drive growth, Immelt said. "Your careers are going to be determined by globalization and technology. Learn the world," Immelt told students. "What's going to be in vogue is solving some of the world's largest problems."
Immelt joked that as an MBA student, he didn't like organizational behavior classes. Now "all I do is OB, and I wish I had actually studied harder," he said. "If you want to be successful in business, it helps if you like people."