Boundarylessness is a concept coined by Jack Welch, the former CEO of General Electric (GE). The word itself is awkward but the meaning is liberating.
Boundarylessness is a literal concept. The word means what it says: eliminate boundaries within an organization or a team to create universal ownership of the organization’s overall mission. The concept is to create an open, sharing climate that seeks to harness the combined strength of the business. (See August 20, 2008, posting “Accessing Collective Intelligence.”)
Boundarylessness has proved notably effective in bringing individuals together, cutting across business functions and organizational hierarchies to spark innovation and initiative.
Boundarylessness, speed, and stretch are three “soft” philosophical concepts that Welch used to create mental paradigm shifts at the individual level, leading to behavioral changes that delivered hard business results to GE’s bottom line.
Welch encountered TREMENDOUS resistance to his attempt to streamline G.E. so it could compete in a 21st-century global economy. Over and over Welch was told: we have no more to give, there is no better way, we have done all we can do. Time after time Welch insisted there was a better way: go back, try again. Try differently, not just harder. Drop the “it can’t be done” mindset, know that there is a better way somewhere.
“Boundaryless behavior has led to an obsession for finding a better way——a better idea——be its source a colleague, another GE business, or another company across the street or on the other side of the globe that will share its ideas and practices…. Zero-sum-thinking did not foresee the immense reservoir of creativity and energy that flows from an engaged work force.” – Jack Welch