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The Luddites were a group of English textile workers and weavers in the 19th century who destroyed weaving machinery as a form of protest. The group was protesting the use of machinery in a “fraudulent and deceitful manner” to get around standard labor practices.Luddites feared that the time spent learning the skills of their craft would go to waste as machines would replace their role in the industry.
These Luddites were workers but what happens if you happen to be CEO and aren’t on the leading-edge of tech? We now have our answer – you can be fired. Every company is going through transformation. Seven years ago if we were told an app could disrupt taxis using any person’s car or disrupt hotel rooms by using any person’s apartment, we would have laughed out loud.
Now, every company is being disrupted – I just was the keynote speaker at the Ideacom reseller event in New Orleans and discussed all these points and someone in the audience said that even the locksmith will be disrupted by smart home tech which unlocks doors from anywhere. Great point!
These ideas are not lost on Ford who just replaced their CEO who was lacking in tech smarts. Chief Executive Mark Fields will retire after 28 years with the auto maker. Fields will be succeeded by Jim Hackett, who was the executive chairman of Ford Smart Mobility for the past 14 months.
A few years back I had a candid conversation with James Buczowski, a Henry Ford Technical Fellow about the company’s connected ecosystem experiments and the future. Here is an excerpt:
I asked the obvious question – how do you compete in the sharing economy with the Ubers of the world? He said he doesn’t see a threat to family driving but perhaps younger, single people will choose ride-sharing over ownership. He then made the case that vehicle ownership equates to freedom.
While he has a solid point – most cars spend most of their time idle. What if ride sharing takes up 20% of the slack? Does this mean a commensurate drop in sales?
I asked about the competition from Silicon Valley – the Googles and Teslas of the world and he instead explained some of these companies are logical partners for their vehicles. I countered that cars are becoming more of a tech play and as they do, the Valley will be more competitive. He dismissed the idea explaining cars have always had a lot of technology and they will also have other components such as vehicle dynamics, a suspension and a body.
He went on to say the company sees opportunity for technology to improve in the battery, motor and drivetrain of vehicles.
We then discussed the company’s decision to grow its Palo Alto
research group to 125 people where they will focus on smart mobility, autonomous driving, data analytics, human machine interface and deep learning. He likened what they are doing in-part to extending Google Now.
When I first heard the news of this new center, I was a bit surprised because Michigan is where the company is headquartered and the state has been making a massive push to get more tech companies to relocate there. In this case, a local company decided to invest in California. It seems the reasons have to do with not only the ease of hiring the right people in the Bay area but perhaps more importantly learning how Silicon Valley works and applying the lessons learned back to Dearborn
Ford in other words is learning to better compete with the new entrants in the space by mimicking the cultural dynamics inherent in the startup culture of northern California.
In short, Ford seems to have thought through how to make better connected ecosystems. On the one hand though they seem to not be concerned about new entrants from the Valley but on the other, they seem to realize it is a big enough of a threat that they need to emulate best business practices from the area. Sure, they probably don’t want to go on the record saying they are afraid that an Apple iCar will destroy them but every auto company has to be looking at what happened to Motorola in the cellphone space shortly after their failed Apple partnership.
This move to elevate Jim Hacket to CEO shows Ford is growing increasingly concerned about its future in a world where Tesla is becoming synonymous with “future car” and Google and Apple are spending billions in their core market.
This same concern should be taking place at the board and shareholder levels of all companies as Luddites have no future as CEOs in today’s digitally transformed economy.
Speaking of Innovation & Transformation…
Communications 20/20 will be held July 18-20, 2017 at Caesars Palace,
Las Vegas, Nevada and will focus on the next wave of technology and innovation that will transcend the importance of person to person contact, disrupting the future of the entire communications industry. Communications 20/20 will provide vital knowledge and insight through unique programming, hands on training, live demos, keynotes, exhibits and networking events.
This unique conference will allow for individuals and companies entrenched in the traditional communications ecosystem that want to understand how to adapt and profit from the new software-defined communications trends that will permeate through all industries and enterprises.