The evolution of General Electric's product innovation strategy

Adela McMurray, Heath Downie

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review


Innovation is a driver for sustainable growth (Hamel et al, 2008). Innovation factors such as capital investment and increased efficiency are considered to be responsible for almost 75 per cent of the USA’s post-WW II growth rate (Rai & Doms, 2010). Despite the fact that innovation has been a key-factor in generating results and outcomes, the innovative activity itself has not always been understood in a planned way (Marins, 2012). The complexity of the process is not well understood (Delmar et al,. 2003) and the conceptual thinking is at times limited (McMurray & Dorai, 2003). Current innovation research is fragmented, poorly grounded theoretically and not fully tested in all areas (Crossan & Apaydin, 2010). The purpose of this study was to develop new insight and understanding on the evolution of the innovation strategy in GE, a global organization. Utilizing documentary analysis to consolidate the academic innovation literature together with GE’s 1892 to 2011 industry reports, the study consolidates the two literatures and develops a chronological timeline identifying GE’s product innovation strategies. This extensive chronology, spanning across 120 years, provides valuable insights into the sustained growth, wealth creation and global competitive positioning of GE through its innovation strategy. The findings in this translational study hold significance in academic and industry contexts as they contribute to the body of theoretical and practical knowledge regarding the evolution of innovation strategies in large global organizations. To date, there is no current literature documenting the evolution of innovation strategy building for success within large global organizations. Thus the practical and theoretical significance generated in this pioneering study are confirmed through real life examples of successful innovation strategies which may be used by academics and industry practitioners in their teachings, learnings and practices.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of 19th International Business Research Conference
ISBN (Print)9781922069139
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes


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