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Video Case: Gm Global Research Network

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Chapter 7 - Designing Organizational Structure

Video Case: GM Global Research Network

Drivers want cars that are expressive with a strong sense of identity. Automobile manufacturers spend millions of dollars to design vehicles that will resonate with buyers. Years before new models go into production, engineers are at work seeking the next level of innovation in design and functional and safety features. To lay the groundwork for new generations of cars and trucks, General Motors has built a new business model that partners with other companies and uses an extensive global network of researchers and engineers.

Competition in the auto industry has pushed manufacturers to focus on innovation. To innovate, venerable GM has changed its business model to reflect the technology revolution and to use technical capabilities from around the world. The days of the old business model with the "lone wolf researcher" are gone, says Alan Taub, executive director of global research and development. "We really are in a team environment for innovation and a global team environment." That requires a network of research minds both inside the company and from universities and research labs, not only in the United States but all over the world. Today for every two researchers and engineers working inside GM labs, there is one external partner. GM has recruited engineers and scientists from North and South America, Europe, the Middle East, China, Taiwan, India, and Korea.1 This global research network enables GM to tap into a vast pool of technological expertise. When GM's hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicles reach the market, the technology will reflect many global influences.

The world's largest auto maker for many decades, GM manufactures vehicles in 32 countries and sells in 200 countries. Changing a business model in such a large organization is a huge undertaking. It's much simpler to work with people down the hall than to encompass talent throughout the world. The change requires a workforce that is global, mobile, and comfortable working with many different cultures.

GM's new research model is evident at the GM Sweden Science Office at Saab headquarters in Trollhattan, Sweden. GM's purchase of Saab Automotive in 2000 gave the American company a brand sold worldwide and fueled its global research and development. Saab, introduced in 1950 by a team of aircraft engineers, is known worldwide for unique design, innovative interiors, engineering strengths like turbo engines, and safety. A $26 million agreement with the Swedish government supports GM's automotive research in Sweden. Through this venture, the company hopes to use the Saab core expertise to coordinate and expand all research and development efforts in Europe and beyond.

At the University of Michigan



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