Dow(n) and Out: Can General Electric Reclaim Its Legacy?

Old-school brands like GE and Sears have struggled in a changed economy where too much focus on the short term can be a liability. Building a modern legacy company requires a different approach to management and customer relations. “As counter-intuitive as it may seem, we’ve found that brands guided by long-term ambitions make faster, better short-term decisions than their nearsighted competitors,” write Mark Miller and Lucas Conley in this opinion piece. They are the authors of Legacy in the Making: Building a Long-Term Brand to Stand Out in a Short-Term World. Miller is the founder of The Legacy Lab, a research and consulting practice, and the chief strategy officer at Team One. Conley is a writer with The Legacy Lab, and a former researcher for The Atlantic and staff writer for Fast Company.

This past month, General Electric — the last remaining member of the Dow Jones Industrial Average’s original 1896 index — was removed from the world’s most prestigious equity benchmark. News of the venerable brand’s dismissal from the Dow, the index of 30 large, publicly traded U.S. brands reflecting the health of the financial markets, was somber but not entirely surprising. Down more than 80% from its all-time high in 2000, GE had come to account for less than 1% of the overall weight of the index. Under new leadership and in the throes of a massive reorganization, the question in the wake of GE’s delisting is not so much whether it can return to the Dow someday, but whether it will survive and, if so, what it will look like in the years to come.

GE is only the latest in a long line of fallen bellwether brands to make headlines for the wrong reasons. In recent months, Toys “R” Us, Necco and Gibson Guitars — culturally significant icons

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