Though none of us can sanely claim to know what the future holds (I leave that to the fanatics), it’s abdicating your responsibility as a leader not to think about it. How do you go about that? In the most general terms: Creatively, deeply, and with a view to watching keenly to see what leading indicators may be trying to tell you. Somewhat more specifically, unlike telling stories about business history—where, by hypothesis, we know how it ended—telling stories about business future requires at least a modicum of suspended disbelief and trust that there’s value to be had in thinking about probabilities and likelihoods even if the hard core promise of “learning something” is beyond reach.

That’s why today I commend to you the approach taken by GE’s chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt, as described in an interview he granted McKinsey a few months ago.

Immelt’s theme, and GE’s theme for its future, is “digitizing in the industrial space,” and although that might sound about as far from Law Land as one can get, we’re all still for-profit enterprises staffed by human beings facing capable competitors, with clients who have ample choice in the market, and we’re all operating under uncertainty about the future.

The premise of “digitizing industry” is straightforward and familiar enough: The big machines GE makes—jet engines, MRI scanners, locomotives—have all become massive data-generating engines, with easily 100 sensors in (for example) a jet engine. According to Immelt, on a single flight from New York to Chicago, a GE engine could create a terabyte of data (temperatures, fuel consumption, turbine blade wear, etc.) As Immelt put it, this means industrial companies including GE “are in the information business whether they want to be or not.”

Related Articles

Email Delivery

Get Our Latest Articles Delivered to your inbox +

Sign-up for email

Be the first to learn of Adam Smith, Esq. invitation-only events, surveys, and reports.

Get Our Latest Articles Delivered to Your Inbox

Like having coffee with Adam Smith, Esq. in the morning (coffee not included).

Oops, we need this information
Oops, we need this information
Oops, we need this information

Thanks and a hearty virtual handshake from the team at Adam Smith, Esq.; we’re glad you opted to hear from us.

What you can expect from us:

  • an email whenever we publish a new article;
  • respect and affection for our loyal readers. This means we’ll exercise the strictest discretion with your contact info; we will never release it outside our firm under any circumstances, not for love and not for money. And we ourselves will email you about a new article and only about a new article.

Welcome onboard! If you like what you read, tell your friends, and if you don’t, tell us.

PS: You know where to find us so we invite you to make this a two-way conversation; if you have an idea or suggestion for something you’d like us to discuss, drop it in our inbox. No promises that we’ll write about it, but we will faithfully promise to read your thoughts carefully.