Ford: Innovation … Always

“Innovation is the development of new customers value through solutions that meet new needs…” — Wikipedia

Lately when we use the word “innovation”, we use it to label the new, young, startup company. We tag “innovation” to Apple, Google, Facebook, Amazon and LinkedIn, companies which are all well under 50 years old. Most companies who have been in existence upwards of 50 years are seldom described as innovative. But Ford Motor Company which was started in 1903, is just as innovative now as it was with the sale of its first Ford Model A. In 2013, Ford’s contribution to solutions that meet new needs includes the Fusion, Escape, Fiesta, Mustang and F-150 to name a few.

I have said in previous blog posts that visiting the Ford Auto Show display at the North American International Auto Show is like visiting an Apple store. It’s a way for families to see the new, the future, the innovations to come. Exhibit participants swarm each vehicle, like they were iPads, iPhones or MacBook Pros. Not because they are wow gadgets, but because they offer functions which can help me today and are easy enough for “even me to get the hang of”. Ford has shown that they are a company that understands it’s customer because they live in the same time the customer lives in.

While at the Ford display, you can play trivia games via your cell phone. Just be the first to text the correct answer to win a prize. Download the Ford Auto Show App for either Apple or Android to really have fun. (https://www.blueovalcard.com/naias2013/mobile-app/) With it you can collect badges, click on a QR code to access detailed information on the vehicle. (My only small aside, is that the vehicle display should have made it more clear that the QR code you want to scan is the “blue” one on the vehicle and not the b&w code on the pricing-feature label) A far cry from the loads of car brochures you would lug around the exhibit center in years past. Or you can grab a credit card sized loyalty card you can load with your email address via computer stations on site. As you take the card around the displays, just swipe it by the vehicle you are interested in and information can be emailed to you. How cool is that?

Yes, Ford Motor Company, new customer value through solutions that meet new needs.

#Detroit #Neighborhood Renewal brings sense of Community.

Can we talk? Recently I have noted just how few options Detroit residents in my neighborhood had to talk to one another. The usual routine was work and then back home. You might happen across your next door neighbor to wave to as you rushed to or from your car. Opportunities for real conversation were limited. They say, “Communication is power”. But our neighborhoods had suffered the effects of limited and/or dwindling power for quite sometime.

Luckily now, some neighborhoods are starting to see the rebirth of small business in our area. Word is slowly getting out and trial is starting to take place. The biggest impact is that we have places to gather and talk. The quick wave is leading to a conversation over coffee & pastries or a breakfast of chicken & waffles. The talk is positive. The positive is palatable as we all share our observations of the city. The positive spirit is growing through the acknowledgement that we can now talk.

Case in point, I stopped by Kuzzos Chicken & Waffles on the Livernois Avenue of Fashion. This is the historic retail area in my neighborhood. In its heyday, it was the place for every fashionista. In the past 40 years, it had become a place to drive by while shaking your head in disgust as you traveled to one of the shining malls in the northern suburbs. In the last few years, the Livernois area is starting to establish itself as an artistic retail area. Pottery and classes at “Art in Motion”. One of a kind merchandise fashioned by artisans can be had from “Love Travels Imports” and “Detroit Fiber Works”. Satisfy your sweet tooth with organic bake goods at “Good Cakes and Bakes”. Buy paintings and sculptures from the up and coming artists in the city when you shop “Jo’s Gallery”. Video games from “GamesVille”. Delightful children’s clothing from “DeCreated”. An eclectic retail experience is starting to take shape in this neighborhood. The third restaurant to open on the “Ave.” is Kuzzos. It joins “Nona” and “1917 American Bistro”.

Because I want my neighborhood to grow and thrive, I have taken the time to visit, get to know the owners and make purchases at these businesses. At this point I feel like a character from “Cheers” when I walk into an establishment on the Ave. These enterprising business owners call me by my first name, as I do them. An experience as unique as their merchandise, that a northern suburban mall can’t replicate. They tell me of their business successes. They tell me of new ideas they have to support their business growth. In our discussions, many of the owners noted how important restaurants are to build foot traffic which leads to increased business for all of them.

So during the first week of Kuzzos opening, I stopped by to give it a try. The place was packed. For this restaurant, it wasn’t so much “word of mouth”, but more accurately “word of anticipation” that had everyone waiting for the doors to open. I wasn’t the only resident in this Detroit neighborhood who wished for a breakfast place that wasn’t a McDonalds. I sat at the bar and immediately conversations erupted with my neighbors. An older gentleman, who sat on my right, said hello. He used to live in our neighborhood, but had moved to the suburbs some years back. As he talked and glanced at his newspaper, he gave a relaxed smile with the approval of the positive developments he is now seeing in this neighborhood. “I wish I could come back”, he said.

The neighbor to my left at the counter was a middle-aged woman. She told me how optimistic she was about the property values increasing near her home. She told me about a recent health scare she had, where she had to call Detroit EMS. She smiled broadly and said, “They were so supportive and good to me. I was so thankful for them that day.” She told me she called the mayors office to tell him of her good experience. She noted the mayor’s office was very effective at giving her the name and number of the head of the EMS department. She called the EMS office and told them “thank you”. She said they told her how grateful they were to get her call. “They always hear about complaints, but it’s nice to hear a thank you”, she beamed.

So now that we are starting to have businesses that we frequent. We can now talk to one another. We can share our positive stories. We can reinforce our individual sense that positive things are happening in the city of Detroit. Our communication can rebuild our power. And this power can rebuild our community.

Change is not gonna come. It hasn’t just arrived. It’s been here all the time.

Change is the constant state of the world. Just like the seasons, year after year, changes are always happening. But many people have problems with change. We are comfortable and feel a sense of control over the predictable. Even when the predictable becomes staid and boring, we cling to it like a security blanket.

Recently, the business buzz word is innovation. Change yields innovation. Have you been in a company-wide meeting in the last year, where some executive is talking about the importance of innovation in your industry? I am sure the executive starts the presentation by saying “we are in an age of accelerated technological changes”. The executive is right.
During the presentation you will see a lot of employees nod their heads.

There are a few distinct groups you can spot in the room.
1) The Tech Group – I don’t give them this name because they are associated with tech. I define this group as the employees who work on projects which are either new initiatives to the company or are the current major profit centers. People in this group nod their heads because they believe they are already part of the cutting edge work that will support the company’s future growth.
2) The Dinosaurs Group – this group of employees nod because that’s what they always do at these meetings. These employees are oblivious to and have no plans to consider the impact of the executive’s comments, regarding change, could have on them.
3) The Heavy Lift Group – this group of employees nod because they know the executive just notified them that change is coming their way. These employees may have already come to the same conclusion before the executive brought it up. They may have noticed the operational pressures impacting their current processes.
By this point you may or may not have identified the group you belong. However, breath a little easier, because no matter what group you are in now, the advice to you will be the same. Accept change as a constant. Tech group, don’t become complacent, thinking that you have arrived. Because change is constant, you may find yourself new to the Dinosaur group quicker than you think. For a member of the Heavy Lift group, I applaud you if you have the ability to notice when changes need to occur. However, remember that change is constant, so you need to make the critical leap to accept establishing an environment where you can exist with constant change.
Make the leap. Are you ready? Do you know how? Here are some steps that I am learning to practice that will help you out.
1. Identify the predictable and boring stuff. Do you still need to do them?. Should these things be changed? Can they be done more efficiently if you leverage technology to streamline the process?
2. Overcome your fear? Just close your eyes and jump in for the water is fine. Just do it? Don’t be afraid to try something new. Have faith. This might sound cliche to you. But the point of these simple sayings is to tell you to do whatever you have to do to leave paralyzing fear behind.
3. Get your mind right. Yes, when all is said and done, constant change is all about you. You can choose to be part of the solution and not harp on the problem. Yes, one more cliche coming here, “Be the change you want to see”.
4. Think out of the box and embrace the possibilities. Constant change is a testimonial to the fact that anything is possible. This is your time to “Dream a little bigger darling”
5. Be open to collaborate. If you get your mind right, identify those other out of the box thinkers who have no fear and talk it out. You will be amazed what a group like this can accomplish.

So as you nod at the next company-wide meeting on change. Be ready to back it up with real change that leads to impressive innovations for your industry.