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Ford’s Ideo Partnership Echoes CEO Jim Hackett’s Steelcase Strategy

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Ford’s small Greenfield Labs team in Silicon Valley is tasked with guiding the automaker’s future approach to ride-sharing, ride-hailing, shuttles, autonomous vehicles, and electrification. But the 40-member crew isn’t blazing a path into the unknown all by its lonesome; Ford’s Greenfield Labs has a partner in Silicon Valley design firm Ideo – the same company that designed the first computer mouse, and that Ford CEO Jim Hackett reached out to years ago while he was still at the helm of Michigan-based firm Steelcase.

In fact, much of Hackett’s strategy with regard to Greenfield Labs echoes his moves as CEO of the Grand Rapids office furniture company.

“This is 100 percent Jim,” says Ford’s Creative Director for its Greenfield-Ideo partnership. Greenfield Labs is “small and we’re nimble and we’re used to working very quickly. It’s easier for us to try ideas out.”

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“Our mandate is Ford is in a transition from making cars to providing mobility,” he says. “Hopefully the way in which we work, we start to change some of how the rest of Ford thinks about how to approach those challenges.”

Ford’s Greenfield Labs was started by Hackett a year ago, when he was still CEO of Ford Smart Mobility LLC – Ford’s mobility-focused subsidiary. If the goal is nothing short of a complete reimagining of Ford’s mission statement, it could prove helpful to have the perspective of companies from outside of the industry. The Blue Oval already has partnerships with companies like Nirenberg Neuroscience, Velodyne LiDAR, and Argo AI to help with the technical aspects of mobility; the company’s partnership with Ideo will focus on the human use aspect.

“It’s an interesting approach to trying to figure out both the business models and the user experience for mobility as a service,” says Navigant Research analyst Sam Abuelsamid. “Ford, like other [automakers], has been selling cars in the same way for over a century. But as the market makes its likely shift to services, they need to figure out how customers are going to interact those services and with the vehicles. Partnering with Ideo may help them get some fresh ideas to try out.”

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(Source: The Detroit News)

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Written by Aaron Brzozowski

Aaron Brzozowski is a writer and motoring enthusiast from Detroit with an affinity for '80s German steel. He is not active on the Twitter these days, but you may send him a courier pigeon.

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