Memo to Mr. Mulally: Opportunity is Scratching at Ford’s Door, Part 1

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Dog-LetMeIn To: Alan Mulally, CEO, Ford Motor Company
      Sheryl Connelly, Mgr. Global Trends and Futuring
From: Tom Collins, Co-founder of BlogPaws, Ford Fan

Let’s start with the Ford Fan thing. I’ve been a Ford Guy since I was a teenager a loooonng time ago. Yes, I’ve owned other brands along the way, but my first four cars were Fords (including a ’65 Mustang — there’s a hint about how long ago I was a teenager) and I always seem to circle back to Ford.

So I’ve been excited each time I’ve been invited to come to Dearborn, learn about the latest research and innovations, and drive some of the newest Ford cars (back in 2008, even the Bullitt Mustang "remake"). This time it was for an event called the Forward with Ford Futuring and Trends Conference. (Travel and expenses paid by Ford.)

So THANK YOU, Mr. Mulally (and @ScottMonty) for arranging the invite). This trip did not disappoint (well, there was one surprising omission — see photo above — but we'll get to that in a few).

You opened the conference by noting how Ford is looking for expertise and ideas on trends and innovations from both inside and outside the company.

Malcolm Gladwell followed with a fascinating look at the trends your conference focused on: particularly Aging Population, Living Green, and Safety and Security. Using Marvin Miller and his transformation of the Major League Baseball Players Association from a weak organization to a powerful union as an example, he posited that the wave of individual freedom and independence that swept over us in the 1960s and 70s, was built on the trends embodied in the civil rights, feminist, and anti-war movements. Gladwell saw this as a major paradigm shift in our culture, rejecting what he called "authority ranking" where individuals feel no power to question or make demands on their organizations and institutions.

Then, looking at the conference trends noted above, he proposed that we may be in the middle of another paradigm shift away from rejecting authority and toward "appeal to authority." Recognizing that we as individuals can't solve the major problems of aging, the environment, safety, and so on, by ourselves, Gladwell suggested that folks from aging Baby-Boomers to environmentalists are now asking our institutions to partner with us in solving them.

Here's a short clip of how he expressed the shift:

That set the table for viewing this conference as something more than a media day, as an opportunity for Ford to talk with us about current trends and the future of its vehicles.

Tomorrow in Part 2, we'll review some of the interesting people and exciting ideas, innovations, and ongoing research Ford brought together for the conference. Then, in Part 3, we'll take a look at what was missing and the BIG OPPORTUNITY that I think it presents for Ford.

Yes, it's pet-related. That's why they invited us, right?

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