Harnessing The Power Of Thousands Of Brains


Sharing information among employees is critical for the success of any organization. Many government offices operate in silos of their own with very little communication with other departments. General Electric (GE) has a long tradition of seeking to eliminate bureaucracy in their operations and for encouraging communication across all levels of their organization.

GE has recently launched an internal social network called GE Colab, which works like FaceBook to encourage communication and the sharing of knowledge among their employees. In a recent interview with MIT Sloan Management Review, Ron Utterbeck, Chief Information Officer for GE Corporate and the Advanced Manufacturing Software Technology Center in Michigan described GE Colab as “…harnessing the power of about 115,000 brains…” Utterbeck describes the goal of GE Colab as “How do you make GE a lot smaller of a place? How do you have a virtual water cooler?”

The benefits that GE has discovered from this new kind of collaboration according to Utterbeck are:

“We’re solving problems faster. When you belong to these groups and you can see how people are saying, “Hey, I got this problem,” literally, within minutes, three or four people comment on it and say, “Have you tried this? What about this?” People are connecting, finding the people they need. Like, “I need a compliance officer in India, I have this issue that I need to bounce off of somebody.” Boom. Right off the bat, it brings them there.
I have some stats that are interesting too: one in three of the connections that we have on the site are across functions. One in four is across geographies, whether between North America and Asia, Europe, South America. And one in five is across our business units.”

Implementing a Colab type program in government seems like a great way to harness brain power among employees. What do you think?

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