GM on the skills you need to manage disruptive innovation

Few companies can lay claim to General Motors‘ global brand recognition — or its heritage of innovation. The Detroit automaker, founded in 1908, gave us automatic starters, tail fins, air bags, the catalytic converter, and the Corvette.

But GM has also been recovering from a 2009 bankruptcy and a massive bailout by the U.S. government. (The Treasury Department sold the last of its GM holdings in December.) In 2012, it cut about 100 jobs in its advanced R&D team.

2013 was a rebound year, however: GM’s stock price rose 40 percent, and it re-entered the S&P 500. In January 2014, GM’s head of global product development, Mary Barra, was named CEO.

Innovation Leader editor Scott Kirsner spoke with Clay Phillips, director of technology and business support at GM, about how the automaker is retooling research and development in the wake of bankruptcy; why some of its attempts to create internal innovation groups failed; and the skills necessary to cultivate disruptive innovations. Phillips also shared his vision for a “new personal mobility model” that is emerging in the 21st century, and will present a challenge to any company connected with the transportation industry.


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