News Column

Ford seeks inspiration from fashion designer, Harvard professor

June 25, 2014

By Alisa Priddle, Detroit Free Press

June 25--Mark Fields, who will take over as CEO of Ford on Tuesday, said he is always fascinated to know how other companies innovate.

Fields made the comment Tuesday night at a kickoff to today's Trend Conference in Dearborn devoted to exploring big ideas and issues in the auto industry.

Fields brought along celebrities in the fields of fashion and innovative thinking: American designer Kenneth Cole and innovator and author Clayton Christensen.

Cole, who started in the shoe business, noted that shoes as a means of transportation predates Henry Ford -- and have fewer recalls.

Today, "there is not a woman in the U.S. who needs another pair of black shoes," Cole told a captive audience, but it is his job to convince them.

To do that, he said he has had to adjust his thinking in sync with today's social media trends.

Cole said he used to think he was in control of a brand he tried to impose on people. "Today everyone is in control of their own brand. So now I believe my job as a designer is to allow me to part of their brand."

Christensen -- the Harvard professor and author of "The Innovator's Dilemna" who coined the concept of disruptive innovation -- said when there is a job to be done, companies need to seek the beacon that can accomplish it.

North Star, he said, is usually a small company, often a start-up, with fresh ideas that can upstage established companies.

The key at Ford is to recognize innovation and act on it, especially if it means getting out of the comfort zone, Fields said.

At today's conference, experts will tackle issues such as how to handle the reams of data in a world where there are 2.5 billion connected devices from watches to refrigerators to cars and that are expected to grow to 30 billion by 2020.

Panels will also look at how women are the increasing role of women in society is affecting the future of business, commerce, education, and even brands.

Another issue is the impact of water scarcity on businesses and their efforts for sustainability.

Contact Alisa Priddle: 313-222-5394 or Follow her on Twitter @AlisaPriddle


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Source: Detroit Free Press (MI)

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