When you think about best practice companies, GE is definitely one of the companies you think about, but not in the same sentence with marketing.  GE has always been a company committed to driving profitability through process improvement versus the kind of innovation that comes through understanding customers and their needs.  Now, under the leadership of GE’s new CEO, Jeffrey R. Immelt, there are signs this is changing.  According to Business Week

“While [former CEO Jack] Welch was best known for the annual Session C meetings during which he personally evaluated the performance of GE’s top several hundred managers, Immelt’s highest-profile new gathering is the Commercial Council. Immelt leads the group of roughly a dozen top sales and marketing executives, including some unit heads such as GE Consumer Finance CEO David R. Nissen. The members hold phone meetings every month and meet each quarter to discuss growth strategies, think up ways to reach customers, and evaluate ideas from the senior ranks that aim to take GE out on a limb. ‘Jeff has launched us on a journey to become one of the best sales and marketing companies in the world,’ says Nissen, who describes the meetings as collegial and more experimental than other GE gatherings.

This is no free-for-all, however. Business leaders must submit at least three “Imagination Breakthrough” proposals per year that ultimately go before the council for review and discussion. The projects, which will receive billions in funding in the coming years, have to take GE into a new line of business, geographic area, or customer base. Oh, and each one has to give GE incremental growth of at least $100 million.”

The Immelt Revolution