When you're as big as GE, it's impossible not to be hurt in a downturn. But the company had good news on its 2008 highlight list too: the three-year-old Ecomagination division saw revenues rise 21% to $17 billion; investment in clean R&D doubled to $1.4 billion; NBC-Universal delivered the most-digital-Olympics-ever, via 2,200 hours of live streaming video.
Nothing shows GE's modern outlook more than its willingness to lampoon itself on TV's 30 Rock, created by Tina Fey. "It adds to the humanity of the company," GE CEO Jeff Immelt told Fast Company at a GE party at, yes, 30 Rockefeller Center. " 30 Rock is a way for us to poke fun at big corporate culture and not be defensive about it," agrees Steve Fludder, the new chief of Ecomagination. "I just showed a clip yesterday at a GE meeting," NBC head Jeff Zucker says.
"They sold the 'E' in GE to Samsung so now they're Samesung. They love it. They get it."
For the uninitiated, Fey stars as Liz Lemon, the head writer of an SNL-type show who has a love-hate relationship with her boss, Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin), the "head of East Coast television and microwave oven programming."
A few memorable GE-focused moments:
Season 1, Episode 4
Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin): Are you familiar with Six Sigma? ... Six Sigma is the elite GE executive training course. To master just its basic concepts, one must brave a five-day conference -- at a Sheraton.
Season 2, Episode 4
Jack Donaghy: The recipient of this year's GE Followship Award is none other than our very own Liz Lemon.... When I think of the free-spirited Liz Lemon I met just one year ago, so resistant to product integration, cross-promotion, and adverlingus, it pleases me to see how well she's learned to follow.
Liz Lemon (Tina Fey): Uh ... is this because of that GE sketch?
[Cut to sketch:]
Tracy Jordan (Tracy Morgan): He has a microwave for a head!
Jenna Maroney (Jane Krakoski): But it's such an excellent GE microwave!
Season 2, Episode 5
Jack Donaghy: We're going green, Lemon! And do you know why?
Liz Lemon: To save the earth?
Jack Donaghy: So we can drain the remainder of its resources. [The CEO] is a genius! He's pitting all the divisions of the company against each other to see who can make the most money from this environmentalism trend.
Season 2, Episode 5
Al Gore: I'm so excited to see this trash-powered car of yours!
Jack Donaghy: The thing is that the GE garbage car isn't quite ready yet. Whaddya say you throw on a pair of green tights and a cape and tell the kids how big business is good for the environment?