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G.E., the 124-Year-Old Software Startup

In Greenville, S.C., G.E. makes giant gas turbines. The turbines can be brought to market in half the usual five years through changes in design and production made possible by digital technology. CreditJeremy M. Lange for The New York Times

Editor's Note: 

Startup culture is not an option, nor the provence of startups only. Everyone talks about disruption and that word can easily be devalued. But, it is real. Incumbent / legacy businesses are being left in the dust. The piece below illustrates the challenges and opportunities faced by G.E. as it tries to adapt to a rapidly changing business and technology landscape. So while it’s true that ‘Culture eats strategy for lunch’, also true is, ‘Adapt or die’. 


It may not qualify as a lightning-bolt eureka moment, but Jeffrey R. Immelt, chief executive of General Electric, recalls the June day in 2009 that got him thinking. He was speaking with G.E. scientists about new jet engines they were building, laden with sensors to generate a trove of data from every flight — but to what end?

That data could someday be as valuable as the machinery itself, if not more so. But G.E. couldn’t make use of it.

“We had to be more capable in software,” Mr. Immelt said he decided. Maybe G.E. — a maker of power turbines, jet engines, locomotives and medical-imaging equipment — needed to think of its competitors as Amazon and IBM.

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