The 2014 Go Further with Ford Trend Conference featured discussion sessions and panels consisting of forward thinking and creative individuals, many of whom are not involved in the automotive industry. That is one thing that has perplexed me about this conference is, if Ford’s primary objective is building and selling cars, why bother going to such lengths?
The answer is – as it sometimes so often is – hidden in the minutiae, the very fine details of things, in this case the talking points of the sessions. Much of it involved examples of problem solving and delivering what the customer wants even before they knew they wanted it. Incoming Ford CEO Mark Fields quoted Henry Ford as saying “If I asked folks what they wanted in transportation needs, they would tell me a faster horse.”
The Trend session “What’s the Big Deal with Big Data?” featured panelists from Ford, Intercontinental Hotel Group, Intel, and UPS. They all spoke to the importance and usefulness of big data and how valuable it is becoming in meeting the needs of the customer sometimes before the interaction with the customer occurs. Ford’s own CEO Alan Mulally has brought the company to new heights of success with the mantra “The data will set you free.”
While I was not assigned to the Female Frontier session, program material provided for the entire conference provided a few key statistics in global roles:
• Women make up roughly 50% of the world’s population,
• Women make up 9.7% of the world’s billionaires,
• Women represent 12% of Forbes’ most recent list of the World’s Most Powerful People,
• Millennial female buyers outpace males by 53%,
• The number of American men who have left work to become stay-at-home dads has doubled in a decade.
Sustainability Blues dealt almost entirely with water conservation and availability globally. It explained that water crises – floods, pollution and drought – rank third among the most worrying threats to business and government, behind fiscal instability and unemployment issues. Panel members spoke not only of ways in which their respective companies and industries are conserving the natural resource but also how they are working to bring cleaner, healthier water to communities around the globe.
Everyone attended the Ford Decoding Design session as it was pared with lunch and ice cream inside Ford’s Product Development Center (where some yahoo parked a press fleet Chrysler 200 in the Vice President’s parking space). Panelists spoke of how elements of design bring not only a usable product to the consumer but one that delivers an emotional journey that delivers the experience while also setting an expectation and, sometimes, stirs the soul. A great line from the session is that great design begins with a single note and culminates in a crescendo of emotion.