[Sponsored Report] Learning and acting like a start-up

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[Sponsored Report] Learning and acting like a start-up

Volatility, uncertainty and complexity are the words that precisely apply to today’s global economic conditions, which challenge many leaders and decision makers.

In such an environment, business leaders often have to prioritize overcoming crises over achieving success, demonstrating their ability to navigate through confusion and chaos. In other words, companies need to face risks by adapting to change faster than ever before. This applies particularly to large global companies with entrenched bureaucracy, which gets in the way of speed and efficiency.

At large corporations, product development usually starts with an idea that can take years to finalize and have little-to-no engagement with customers throughout the process. By the time a product comes to the market, customers and competitors may have changed far beyond what was expected. GE has also been faced with the same challenge over the years. So, we asked to ourselves: How can we make the right decision fast? How can we become a simpler and faster organization for customers? The answers lay in the start-up approach from Silicon Valley.

Eric Ries, a renowned Silicon Valley entrepreneur and author of “The Lean Startup,” gives today’s entrepreneurs two valuable insights. One is the need to eliminate unnecessary development practices through MVPs (Minimum Viable Products), and the second is accelerating innovation through dynamic feedback from customers.

MVP refers to a product with only the core features for deployment. It helps companies to minimize unnecessary preparations and start developing a solid product in hand. Instead of spending millions of dollars for product introduction and then talking to customers about the offering, engaging with customers at a much earlier stage can be more effective and efficient to set clearer directions. At GE, we call such set of principles, tools, and behaviors the “FastWorks.”

Since 2013, we have applied FastWorks to hundreds of projects across the company to better understand pain points, quickly test products or service hypotheses with customers, and to understand if a proposed solution is right for our customers. One example is the development of solid oxide fuel cells. Using the FastWorks model, GE has built up a robust pilot manufacturing operation and achieved commercialization within months, rather than years.

What is the ultimate purpose of MVPs? The answer is to get customers’ feedback more quickly. By listening to customers, companies are injecting continuous feedback into the design and development process to focus on what matters most - learning, testing, creating and identifying solutions that drive meaningful impacts on the business. This feedback process is not limited to customers alone - innovation can be driven from the “inside” as well. This includes the company’s own technical leaders and employees.

Crowdsourcing ideas and open-sourcing them to everyone in the company can be a way to drive innovation and enrich the company’s business portfolios.

GE has recently introduced the concept of “GE Store” to maximize the idea of crowdsourcing and collaboration. It refers to the ability of every business in GE to share and access the same technology, markets, structure and intellect to enable cross-disciplinary innovations. Together with the principle of FastWorks, GE Store will lead to a global exchange of knowledge, technology and tools across all GE businesses that ultimately provide better and faster outcomes for our customers.

In today’s fast-changing economic environment, businesses that do not commit themselves to simplification are likely to fail. Overcoming these risks can lead to greater success and sustainability. Companies need to develop agility and competency to create new opportunities that can be seized, enhancing their speed and competitive advantage.

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