In early 2014, the High-Impact Innovation Team in General Electric Co.’s Connecticut headquarters received an urgent call: It was time to present one of their apps to Jeff Immelt. The chief executive had an expanding interest in tech, having promised an “industrial internet” that GE would help build for the world.

It was the job of the HIIT team to develop apps for use within the company—such as an iPad app to connect lighting engineers with the lighting sales force, and a web-based application for employee performance reviews….

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