Ford Motor Company's Next CEO on How Innovation Drives Success

Mark Fields on innovation, successful companies, and anticipating the future.

May 17, 2014 at 9:31PM


Ford Chief Operating Officer Mark Fields gave the keynote address at last month's New York International Auto Show. Ford announced that Fields, shown here (on right) with current Ford CEO Alan Mulally and Executive Chairman Bill Ford, will become Ford's next CEO on July 1. Photo: Ford Motor Company

Even though it didn't have any major new models to announce, Ford (NYSE:F) had a big presence at last month's New York International Auto Show.

Ford celebrated the 50th anniversary of the original Mustang's debut by unveiling a commemorative model -- and with an epic stunt at the Empire State Building. The company also showed off its refreshed-for-2015 Focus, and many key Ford executives were on hand.

Those executives included Ford's Chief Operating Officer, Mark Fields. Fields opened the New York show's media days with a keynote speech that framed the show as a showcase of innovation.

Fields' speech keyed off of the 1964 World's Fair -- where the original Mustang was unveiled, and which Fields attended as a small child -- to talk about innovation, the characteristics of innovative companies, and how Ford is looking to the future of transportation.

It was a fascinating speech, one that got even more fascinating with last week's announcement that Fields will soon succeed Alan Mulally as Ford's President and Chief Executive Officer. 

We (the Motley Fool's John Rosevear and Rex Moore) were in the room when Fields spoke, and we captured the speech on video. In light of Ford's announcement of Fields' impending promotion, we've decided to share excerpts of the speech that -- we think -- shed light on the current thinking of Ford's brain trust at a moment when the company is preparing for a significant transition.

In this final excerpt from Fields' presentation, he sums it up: What makes a company innovative? How does one innovate? And what kinds of innovations drive success?

Check out this presentation by Ford's next CEO, and scroll down to leave a comment with your thoughts.

A transcript (provided by Ford) of the excerpt is included below.


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Mark Fields: So to sum it all up, as we reflect today on 50 years since the 1964 World's Fair, it's fair to say that it's "Back to the future."

What we learned is the most successful among us will be those who continue to look beyond commonly held beliefs to find new ways and to defy constraints. The true innovators among us will understand the reality that the world will continue, and far more dramatically than it has the last 50 years. The true innovators will anticipate, far in advance, exactly how these changes will affect consumers. And the most successful among us will fully anticipate consumers' spoken wants and even more importantly their unspoken future needs.

As we do all of this, the reward is not only massive business growth, but the chance to change the world.

It reminds me of what Henry Ford said after introducing the Model T, the car that changed the world. When asked about innovation, he said, "If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses." A good lesson, one that still rings true today.

Now, speaking of "faster horses," the Ford team has some more news to share this morning.

We are introducing a very special edition of Ford Mustang, on this, the 50th anniversary of its introduction at the 1964 World's Fair.

Thank you.

John Rosevear owns shares of Ford. Rex Moore has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Ford. The Motley Fool owns shares of Ford. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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