The GE that Welch led in the early 1980’s had an ingrained corporate culture. Such an enduring culture has its advantages and draw backs. One of the negative was the company’s apparent disdain for any idea that did not originate at GE. There was even a name for this: it was called “NIH”, or “Not Invented Here” If the idea was not invented at GE, then it was not worth knowing.
That is the wrong way to run a company, felt Welch. One of this great contributions to leadership was elevating ideas in an organization so that nothing was valued more. And Welch said that it is not only acceptable to learn good ideas from outside the walls of GE, it is your job. It is all of our jobs.
He declared it the job of every employee to soak up good ideas from somewhere else. Six sigma, the watershed quality program that Welch says “changed the DNA” if GE, was not invented at GE, but pioneered by phone maker Motorola. Welch takes great pride in the fact that he learned the idea from other company.
At the heart of Welch’s learning organization is this assumption: “somewhere, someone else has a better idea.” This became one of the driving forces of GE in Welch’s second decade as CEO.
By stressing this point in everything the company did – from including it in the GE values to declaring it in his annual speech to share owners – Welch was making sure that no one missed this point. At GE, it is the best idea that triumphs, period.
Welch lived by that edict. At Crotonville (GE’s famed training center), using management classes challenged the chairman’s thinking face-to-face, and if they had the better idea, he did it their way. When a class challenged his long-standing number one, number two strategy (Welch’s Darwinian law of businesses), he revised his thinking on the spot.
Here are some things you can do to make sure that ideas win in your organization:
Don’t think that you or your company have all the answers: That’s the first order of business in a learning organization. If you think you know it all, then you will stop searching for good ideas.
Study competitors: Welch thought one of the best places to learn good ideas was from competitors. Make it a practice to spend an hour each week studying their websites, product catalogs and anything else that will provide insight into their latest initiatives.
Make sure everyone around you knows that you are interested in all ideas, regardless of where they come from: Let people know that you want to hear from them, and you want them looking everywhere for new ideas. Then celebrate them when someone comes up with a good one. This will ensure a steady infusion of new ideas into your organization.
“It is badge of honor to learn something here, no matter where it comes from.:
Acknowledgement: BOOK - The Welch Way