In 2004 Jeffrey Immelt went before his top executives at GE and said the company was going to drive a big environmental initiative – in renewable energy sources, in global emmissions reduction, in environmentally sound business practices and much more. The majority of his executives looked at him like he was nuts. According to Wikipedia:
“General Electric has a history of large-scale air and water pollution. The corporation is currently listed as the fourth-largest corporate producer of air pollution in the United States, with more than 4.4 million pounds per year of toxic chemicals released into the air. General Electric has also been implicated in the creation of toxic waste. According to EPA documents, only the United States Government and Honeywell are responsible for producing more Superfund toxic waste sites.”
So you can imagine how his top players might have reacted. But Immelt was undeterred. In this interview he states “I’ve worked for GE for 25 years and I’ve made a thousand mistakes but this isn’t one of them.” He recognized an emerging trend, culture, demand, zeitgeist and moved the titanic GE to stay ahead of the curve. Inspiring stuff. Oren Harari has a similar analogy about the precience of Willy Nelson and Madonna.