While General Electric as a company has struggled over the last 10 years with its share price actually down –25% versus 2005, there is one division that is demonstrating it understands the importance of making the big bet. GE’s Power & Water Unit is the company’s largest non-finance business, with sales last year of almost $28 billion. This division sells about half of the world’s gas turbines and is currently investing $2 billion in developing a giant 433 ton gas turbine unit that can generate enough electricity to power 400,000 homes. For perspective, that new gas turbine will weigh as much as a Boeing 747.
A key difficulty in developing this machine was that it needed materials that could withstand temperatures in excess of 2600 degrees Fahrenheit. Cleverly, they worked extensively with the folks at GE’s jet engine unit in developing the design and materials that would handle these extreme temperatures. The big breakthrough here is that this huge gas turbine is actually air-cooled, which makes the installation of it far simpler than most existing gas turbines which are water-cooled and require enormous amounts of water and infrastructure.
GE Power and Water already has over $1 billion of orders for this new product and is in discussion with several communities, with $11 billion dollars’ worth of equipment on the verge being ordered.
Stepping back, here is what the leader of every organization needs to do on an ongoing basis to make sure that the big ideas are being searched out and pursued aggressively when found:
1.) Make it a Priority – No doubt the first priority is to keep the going operation working well and meeting its goals. On the other hand, effort must be set aside to pursue significant improvement. It has to be dedicated to that task and staffed with seasoned, talented personnel.
2.) Make the Goal Demanding – Too often the leader is not demanding enough and settles for projects that can achieve at most a modest impact. That’s not the idea here. The intent always should be to find the big idea that truly can make a significant difference.
3.) Protect the Effort – It’s so easy to fall into the trap of not putting high priority against finding new and exciting ideas. That notion can get easily suffocated by the usual set of challenges that emerge each day as you execute the current plans. The wise leader knows they simply must make sure that the effort focused against the future is not compromised as the normal day-to-day battles are fought.
Always remember, great leaders are always known for the big wins that they have achieved!