Vale Jack Welch of GE.

Champion of x10 Thinking

Jack was an x10 thinker. He also knew the paradox of thinking outside the box. He told me, “I had to hide on the way up the GE ladder all the thinking skills I needed when I became CEO otherwise I would never have been promoted.”

Historically, School of Thinking owes much of its success to three distinguished thinkers: Edward de Bono, George Gallup and Jack Welch. Today we remember Jack Welch.

In New York in 1985 Jack Welch of GE introduced x10 thinking to all GE senior executives and middle managers. Jack read my book NewSell (Boardroom Books, NY 1984) and personally authorised the teaching of ‘x10 Thinking’ (the universal brain software cvs2bvs) across the GE enterprise. He wrote, “I wish I had a management team that really understood Michael’s x10 Thinking because it’s the value-creation skill in the management process”. In subsequent years GE executives have been sought out by Fortune 500 companies because they were considered the ‘creme de la creme’ of the US leadership crop.

With regard to School of Thinking in the corporate sector it started in 1984 when IBM became the first of the Fortune 500 companies to introduce the cvs2bvs lateral thinking skill to senior executives. Then Jack Welch made a corporate mission three-year commitment to training all GE senior executives. The investment for this project was $50,000 and I was retained for top fees to design a 30 x slide projector multi-media training experience to teach – cvs2bvs – the universal brain software and we flew this unit around the GE world from New York to Crotonville to Acapulco training GE executives in ‘x10 Thinking’ from 1985-1987. At that time it was the biggest investment any US company had ever made in teaching lateral thinking skills. Looking back since then it’s worth noting the following facts:

• Jack Welch of GE was himself a master of x10 Thinking. He nicknamed it ‘boundaryless thinking” and also “boundarylessness’.

• By the time he left Jack had grown the world famous General Electric Company from a market value of $14 billion to a market value of $410 billion – an increase of more than 2,700%making it the most valuable company in the history of the world. Thinking way outside the box he had transformed it from not only a century-old manufacturer but also a national broadcaster and a global bank!

• “Our dream for the 1990s,” Welch wrote in GE’s 1990 annual report, “is a boundaryless company where we knock down the walls that separate us from each other on the inside and from our key constituencies on the outside.”

• In his book about his time at GE Jack: Straight From the Gut (2001) he wrote about cvs2bvs: “It would make each of us wake up with the goal of “Finding a Better Way Every Day”. It was a phrase that became a slogan, put up on the walls of GE factories and offices around the world. It was the essence of boundaryless behaviour, and it defined our expectations”.

• Famous for the little handwritten notes he would send to people, Jack sent me several and the one I prized most said simply: “Michael, you are a friend of our company”.

• In 1999, Fortune magazine named him “Manager of the Century”. • Since then, thousands of companies in the US and around the world have used ideas from the GE Model. Scores of Fortune 500 companies emulated the leadership example and transformation model set by Jack Welch at GE.

• Many business volumes, Harvard Business Review articles and other media have been written about Jack’s value-driven transformation of his company.

• Using his cutting-edge strategies like Work Out, Boundarylessness and Six Sigma, Jack has developed more leaders than any other CEO in business history.

• That I know of, the Jack Welch era at GE produced CEOs for Honeywell, 3M, Boeing, Intuit, Symantec, Home Depot, Chrysler, Siemans and Merck. According to USA Today the top three companies for producing CEOs of other Fortune 500 companies are GE (26), IBM (18) and McKinsey (16).

Today, Larry Page of Google is the best proponent of x10 thinking and today Google is the most valuable company in the world. In emulating Jack Welch Larry Page says he “lives by the gospel of x10″. (WIRED, Feb 2013, Cover). Like Jack Welch, Larry Page has also nicknamed x10 thinking. He calls it … ‘moonshot thinking’.

Leave your thought

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.