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I'm Pete Cashmore, CEO and founder of Mashable. You're watching documented@Davos with Scribd and Mashable. The hashtag is davosdocs. So we're starting on a fresh day at Davos. It's Thursday. And we're delighted to have the CMO of GE, Beth Comstock. Thanks for joining us. BETH COMSTOCK: Yes, Pete. Glad to be here. PETE CASHMORE: It's very exciting. And I think we'll leap right into the questions. BETH COMSTOCK: OK. PETE CASHMORE: So, you're responsible for innovation at GE. Can you tell me how that works in such a huge organization? How do you actually create innovation? BETH COMSTOCK: Yeah. Well, innovation's a wide spectrum. We have great R&D, engineering, science. We have Mark Little who leads that. And that's what GE's known for over 130 years. Think of jet engines, locomotives. And I get involved with my marketing colleagues, trying to come up with new models of, how do you take these products to market? We call it commercial innovation. But if you think about Apple and the iPhone and you think about iTunes, the way we look at innovation is, let's create the jet engine. And then what's the iTunes, if you will, for how you bring the jet engines to market? PETE CASHMORE: What is the iTunes of the jet engines? BETH COMSTOCK: Well, that's part of what we're at work at right now. But imagine if your jet engine could talk to you. You're a service rep at Southwest Airlines or Qantas. Your jet engine sends you a Tweet. PETE CASHMORE: So we're going to have sentient engines. Is this safe? BETH COMSTOCK: Exactly. They're talking to you. But they already do. There's a terabyte of data that comes off of every jet engine. PETE CASHMORE: So we're talking almost about the trend of devices telling us about things, becoming almost little computers in a way. BETH COMSTOCK: Well, they are computers. I think as much as you think about the craftsmanship that a GE would do in terms of manufacturing, there's an incredible investment and trend about software and data. It's our mash-‐up. It's our mashable, if you will. How do we mash the two of them together so that a customer gets much
better analytics? It gives them the ability to diagnose remotely, but also better operate their business. So that's where I get involved. We call it commercial innovation. It's basically new business models, new ways of taking that great technology and bringing it to customers in ways that makes them more productive. PETE CASHMORE: So what are the most exciting new technologies you're working on right now? BETH COMSTOCK: Well, I think certainly at GE, when you work in a company like mine, you've got to love big things. So think of jet engines, trains, big gas turbines. I mean, they may not be very sexy when you're thinking about your iPod and iPad, but they're very exciting, because they basically power the world. And there's so much technology that goes into them. One of the things I find very exciting-‐-‐ I guess two things. One is advanced manufacturing. We're investing a lot. Think of 3D printing. Our R&D folks are working very hard to figure out, how do we take all of our advanced material science and start to print? Over time, maybe you'd print an aircraft engine part. So I mean, that's very exciting. And at the same time, I think we're looking for new partnerships. So we've been working a lot in a very open, collaborative way. We've had a couple of big open challenges incenting entrepreneurs to come and work together with us in areas like breast cancer treatment, in areas like the smart grid. And so, you get very tactical. And then you get very collaborative. And that's what I think is very exciting about innovation. PETE CASHMORE: Well, we were just chatting about 3D printing. I know we saw some on display at CES this year. So is this something that's going to come to the home? Is that going to stay in a factory? Because people get pretty excited to imagine they might print their own stuff at home. BETH COMSTOCK: Well, I think you can certainly imagine a future where it's in your home. But I think that's going to be a while. And for GE, I think we're looking at it very much as changing how we manufacture, so that the ability to print a part, to do the kinds of intense, complex manufacturing, it's going to change the face of manufacturing. And it's very exciting. But I think it's going to be in industrial applications for a while longer before it gets to your home. But over time, imagine your dishwasher, and maybe through software, it can service itself mostly through software. You may not even need to print a part. But you can start to see, and those things are within reach. PETE CASHMORE: That's pretty exciting. You run the Ecomagination Challenge. Can you tell us a bit about that?
BETH COMSTOCK: Yeah, well, Ecomagination is our cleantech platform. It's all about innovation. It's about investing in technology and new partnerships. And we launched a $200 million challenge last year where we said, hello world. We're looking for great ideas that help us power a smarter grid and connect to consumers. And for us, it was a big step, because it was saying, hey, we don't have all the answers. We've got great science in GE, but we don't have all the answers. And we got 5,000 business plans. It was pretty remarkable. And what it's led us to are dozens of partnerships with startups that are bringing new ways of thinking, new technology, new business models. And it's bringing in ideas from Israel, from China, from the Middle East in very exciting ways that maybe weren't on our radar. And I think it's pretty exciting to be able to see those ideas. And then, what does an entrepreneur get from GE? Certainly, they get access to our science. But they get access to markets and access to scale in a way that a startup might not be able to do on their own. PETE CASHMORE: We hear a lot about-‐-‐ and I think our readers care a lot about the future of power. I mean, is there a magic bullet? Is it going to be wind? Is it going to be solar? Is it going to be something we don't even know about yet? What do you think is the future of power? BETH COMSTOCK: Well, it's going to be a mix. The future of power is going to be generated by a mix of sources. Renewables are here to stay. Obviously, we've invested in a big way in wind. We even made some announcements in solar. I think even the more traditional power generation sources, we're at work to make sure they're as energy-‐efficient and as clean in the process as they can be. So I think that's the good news, is that no matter how energy is generated in the future, it's going to be cleaner. There's a lot of rush to look at gas. Natural gas is a big source in the US, a big source in markets like China. So I think you're going to see a mix. Renewables are definitely part of the future. PETE CASHMORE: We should maybe talk a little bit about social media. Obviously, our audience is pretty interested. How are you personally using social media? Or how does GE use social media, and what's the approach? BETH COMSTOCK: Well, for us, it's a wide spectrum, again. I mean, social media, I'm a firm believer that business is social. It's not just a consumer aspect. You need to connect with customers. And that could be doctors, help doctors connect with their patients. So those are some of the things we're starting to invest in, collaborative groups of doctors who come together and help each other solve problems, collaborative
groups of service engineers in a power plant. So that's one aspect in business we're starting to see. And then from a consumer perspective, I think we're using it to redesign how we do customer service in our appliance business. So, heaven forbid you should have a problem. Hopefully you don't. We get to you early. And over time, where that leads is much more product development together. So we can say, here's five features. What do you think? Which would you buy? Which do you think is more practical? So I think social media is changing the way we engage. It's not just listening. It really is, what can you tell us, and what do we give you back? But together, it's changing the way we innovate. That's exciting. PETE CASHMORE: Is it maybe the new focus group? Is that how it's being used? BETH COMSTOCK: I think it's a new definition of focus group. Focus group has traditionally been, what do you think? Let me listen. Here's what I heard. Now it's, I hear you. Let me give you something back. Can you make it better? Now give that back to me. So you're creating a new kind of value. I think listening is the first step. But working together is the new focus group, if you will. PETE CASHMORE: And what about outbound? Do you do any kind of messaging-‐-‐ I mean, we do a lot of listening, obviously. What about messaging about what GE's up to and that kind of thing? BETH COMSTOCK: Yeah, we're doing-‐-‐ perhaps you've seen some work we've done in the past couple of months. We've been focusing a lot on the people of GE and the passion they have. A lot of craftsmanship people who love welding, people who love-‐ -‐ PETE CASHMORE: So it's like the human element. BETH COMSTOCK: It's the human element, but there's a real craftsmanship that goes into making some of these advanced technologies. And I don't know that people appreciate the touch that goes into the tech. So we've been trying to highlight that and connect our technologists and our craftsman with the outcome of what they do. I mean, for example, taking aviation engineers to Boeing to watch one of the engines they've created actually lift off and see the outcome. And what does that mean? So that's how we're trying to do some of the outbound. Kind of, what works? Here's how GE works. What's working? How do we-‐-‐ PETE CASHMORE: It almost sounds like storytelling. Is that-‐-‐
BETH COMSTOCK: I think that social media gives you-‐-‐ media in general, but social media in particular gives you great opportunities to tell your story in a very meaningful, targeted way. PETE CASHMORE: I think that's a great note to end it on. So thanks so much, Beth Comstock, CMO of GE. You're watching Davosdocs with Scribd and Mashable. Thanks for joining us. More interviews coming up.
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