3 Tips for a Future-Proof Company

Waterloo University student Bjorn Dawson blogs about 3 key concepts he learned about GE Canada after spending a day with CEO Elyse Allen.

By: Bjorn Dawson

Background: Recently, I was offered the chance to spend the day with Elyse Allan, the CEO of GE Canada, through the CEOx1Day competition run by global executive search firm Odgers Berndtson. Elyse and her team at GE were incredibly receptive and what was clear is that this large corporation is becoming increasingly nimble as they continue to innovate.

Industrial innovation moved at an incredible pace right into the 1960s and 70s at which point it stopped. Only recently has non-IT innovation began again as we turn our attention as a society towards long term sustainability in an effort to curb an era of consumption. What follows are three important considerations for building a company that is relevant in the future:

1. Build solutions

Traditionally, most companies identify a gap and build a product to address and fill that gap. To remain competitive and continue innovating, however, companies must strive to develop full solutions to problems.

GE’s Hydro Turbines, for example, produce terrabytes worth of data annually that, without a data management specialist, is meaningless for their customers. What GE has done is create a software suite and services to support their customers and help them understand and utilize the information that is being gathered so that they can best operate their equipment.

2. Embrace the Global Brain

With over 300,000 employees worldwide, GE is last company that I expected to ‘outsource’ work. This amazingly powerful concept of harnessing what Elyse Allan refers to as the Global Brain, is the idea that you can post challenges online and find the best solutions in the most interesting places.

Through their GE Open Innovation Challenges, projects are published online and submissions are accepted from around the world. An engineer from Indonesia recently managed to reduce the weight of a bracket by 84% through one of these competitions, how amazing is that!

The important note here is that we now have the ability to innovate as a global community to ensure that we always find the best solutions.

3. Policy Matters

As part of a young generation of potential voters, I have noticed that a majority of my peers are not taking the time to become informed and to vote, which, in my opinion, is an alarming trend. What I did not realize, is how important it is to remain involved with policy at all times and not only during elections.

A company as large as GE, for example, makes multi-billion dollar decisions that can greatly affect local economies. On a smaller scale, understanding various trade agreements can help companies, and small businesses can benefit from tax incentives and subsidies, but it is up to those companies to push for change.

Bonus: The importance of women

As a female CEO, Elyse is in the minority group of female executives. The more we discussed the importance of ensuring the women are able to excel in the workplace, the more it became clear just how ingrained in a company these values must be. I highly suggest that any leader reads the McKinsey & Company report entitled “Unlocking the Full Potential of Women in the US Economy”. In short, there are a large number of skilled women who, if supported properly and given the opportunity to do so, have the potential to contribute greatly to individual businesses and the economy as a whole. As business leaders and exceptional employees, it is up to everyone to rectify this issue.