Sue has a great base of conversation. We loved that she dropped the “T” bomb (TRAIN!) right at the beginning. Her knowledge of Ford’s current sustainable facts and figures proved her credibility. The mention of a “Hub Concept” got us hopeful that Ford has big plans in this space.
But while she seems to be developing some models for Ford’s future, we would like the shape of these models to reflect more progressive shifts. Peter Drucker reminds us that "wherever you see a successful business, someone once made a courageous decision".
We’ve three key points, and have represented each one graphically. We call them “Shapes for Sue”. The ideas they contain are explained in the text below each diagram.
1. Be a Game Changer
At a recent Designer’s Accord meeting in NYC, Allan Chochinov of Core77 said "we know too much not to design in a sustainable manner”. He’s right. The facts are in, and climate change has created a situation that is in urgent need of addressing. Sue's talk of "transitional changes" will not suffice, when one considers the magnitude of our problem. We need bold actions and strict practices from industry leaders.
We need to impress behavioral change within users to set firm attitudes and outcomes. Ford has the opportunity to be a "Game Changer" as P&G’s A.G. Lafley would say, and implement large scale shifts. Traditional business models would see Sue's prescribed strategy of "near-term, midterm, and long-term" solutions as smart. But these are strategies for a previous era - comfortable change rather than radical rebirth. If Ford claims to be an industry leader, it needs to step up, and differentiate itself as such. The danger is that the world is now changing much faster than Ford.
2. Mash-ups not Mix-tapes
Mash-ups are a current, popular form of music created by taking parts of many existing songs and overlapping, restructuring, and recreating them into an entirely new compilation. A mash-up creates a song from familiar parts but creates an entire new way of hearing it. Artist Greg Gillis (aka GirlTalk), may mix Pras's "Ghetto Superstar" and Yo La Tengo's "Autumn Sweater" all in less than 30 seconds. We think Ford should see this as an inspiration and analogy for creating industry partnerships. Currently, Ford’s partnerships feel more like a mix-tape, a mix of single tracks from different albums on one tape. Most of Sue’s discussion paints Ford as merely a hardware maker. Ford needs to reach out and begin partnerships that embrace service design, infrastructure change, mobile urban living. The possibilities are endless when we are open to creative, collaborative, non-traditional forms of ourselves.
Sue spoke of Ford’s interest in current thought leaders and Industry conferences. It seems to be talking with many of the industry's tastemakers to make more informed decisions. The fact that Ford has created positions for sustainable strategy and social media are impressive in themselves. Yet while creating all these new positions and discussions, Ford seems to have forgotten the primary rule of ‘sales’: be a good listener. Ford’s product development models a collaborative inner-circle of new-age hybrid leadership. This model resembles a funnel and seems to focus more on "a perception’s game" as Scott Monty describes in a January 12, MDB interview than a receptive open-source model.
Traditional leadership models will not meet the pressing needs of our current economy, and climate change. We propose a co-creation model similar to the work of academic design researcher Liz Sanders, in her "Make-Tools" workshops. The idea of co-creation is not design by democracy, but rather design by listening. The advent of social media penetrates today's participatory culture in completely new ways - ones that are highly digestible by the public.
So come on Ford, let's cut the jargon, turn up our tweets and begin a real dialogue. One that's devoid of traditional marketing and watered down plans.
Amy Johannigman and Robb Hunter are both currently undergraduate students in the Department of Design,
Architecture, Art and Planning at The University of Cincinnati. Amy
majors in Product Design and has worked at The Ford Motor Company among
others, while Robb majors in Transportation Design and has worked at
Hasbro toys, DEKA and Intrago.
Both bring a multi-disciplinary approach to what they do - favouring collaborative processes over demarcated disciplines.