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Carroll School of Management

Looking to the Future

Jeffrey R. Immelt

Chairman and CEO, General Electric

Excerpt from remarks to Boston College’s Chief Executives Club  

March 24, 2016

TAKEAWAY: Looking to the Future

So I’m not going to say anything bad about Connecticut. It was a great place to live. We’ve got a lot of friends there. I think running a—being a public servant today is a hard job. It’s a hard job.

But I think, for all of us, it’s really about the future. It’s about who's willing to fight for 5 or 10 years from now versus protecting the past. And that’s true for companies and it’s true for governments.

And if you’re going to dwell on 100% of backward looking, it’s a hard world. And if you’re willing to lean in to those technologies, those changes, those collaborations—and that’s what companies have to do today, and that’s what governments have to do today. And it doesn’t matter if you’re in Connecticut or Massachusetts or Texas or Ohio. If you’re looking backwards, you’re going to lose.

And so I just—I can’t say anything bad about the people, because I think they work hard, and clearly we liked the communities we lived in. But this move for GE is all about the next 40 years. What do we want the company to look like? How do we want the company to be challenged?

I want people that are down in the seaport—I want them to walk out of their office every day and be terrified. I want them to be completely paranoid about the world that they’re in, about are we moving fast enough? What can we do better? Who’s smarter than we are? And I want to be in this sea of ideas so that paranoia reigns supreme inside the company.

And to look out the window and see deer running across—you know, that just—I don’t care about that stuff. I want some 29-year-old Ph.D. student at MIT to punch me right in the nose and say all of GE’s technologies are wrong. You’re about to lose. Right? And then you can go back and spread the word. That’s the job.