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Leaders and failure: When Jack Welch blew up the plant

Kirsty Wark: I understand one of the first things you did at GE was blow up the plant you were working in and that it had a profound effect on you. Can you explain?

Jack Welch: I did accidentally blow up the plant, yes. I was about 25 and had been experimenting with a different mixture. There was an explosion. I was scared stiff when I went to the manager. But, he was mainly curious as to why I had done what I had done and what I had learnt from it. ‘Would the process I was trying have worked’ is what interested him! That real encouragement to get it right rather than a punishment did have a profound effect on me, yes. (1)

Admit it: you would have fired him, wouldn’t you 😉 .

(1) My notes from the European Conference on Customer Management, London, where Welch was interviewed. Jack Welch was CEO of General Electric for twenty years and is probably the world’s most-admired CEO.

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