What You Can Learn From Ford's Plans to Disrupt Itself

By Graham Winfrey | Small Business

The automaker's new CEO wants to change the way consumers get from Point A to Point B--in a big way.

Mark Fields doesn't officially take up the CEO mantle at Ford until July 1, but he's already busy on the media circuit communicating his new vision for the automaker. He gave a presentation this week at Ford's annual trends conference, and one keyword came up again and again: disruption.

Fields isn't shy about citing disruption expert Clayton Christensen's book " The Innovators Dilemma" as his guide for thinking about risk and reimagining Ford's role as an automaker--he even brought Christensen along for the event. (Clothing designer Kenneth Cole also made an appearance.)

Fields says the company needs to focus on one big question: "How do we disrupt our industry and our own company before other people do it for us?" It's not a bad exercise for any company, regardless of stage of growth.

One of Fields' ideas involves thinking of Ford as a "personal mobility company" that anticipates its customers' needs before they do. While "personal mobility" is a phrase you might associate with Segways or electric wheelchairs, the idea is to transition Ford to being more than just a maker of traditional automobiles.

As the Wall Street Journal reports, here are some of the avenues Ford may pursue in the future:

Autonomous Vehicles

You've probably heard by now that driverless car technology is a reality. Self-driving cars have driven 800,000 miles without an incident, a better record than human drivers.

Smarter Cars

Intelligent cars that communicate with parking lots will likely make finding open spaces a problem of the past. The same technology is expected to help cars automatically navigate to avoid traffic.

Car Sharing

Ford could soon bring its European car-sharing initiative FORD2GO, the first program backed by an automaker, to the U.S.

The lesson for entrepreneurs? Disruption doesn't necessarily mean turning your business model on its head. A good way to think about innovation is to ask both what your customers want today as well as what they're likely to want tomorrow.


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