Flying With A Good Idea

Who here hasn’t at least once dreamt while speeding down an interstate in whatever jalopy the fates put in your hands that you were, just for a moment, flying? Ok, maybe it’s just us guys. Or am I the only one who kept track of exactly where that special bump in the country road would provide a moment of lift?

A key component of creativity is recognizing when an idea that is working in one place might have application in another. (Like when Wilber twisted the tube box)

This came to mind while watching Leo Laporte interview Ford CEO Alan Mulally at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.

Mulally came to Ford from Boeing where he helped design the first digital cockpit on the 767 and a number of aircraft after that. At the time some wondered what an ‘avionics guy’ would be able to do for the ‘car guys.’

Laporte: “So how much of your background at Boing informed this? Because you have a digital cockpit right here.”

Mulally: “…A very important thing is that the pilot has complete situational awareness. All the data has been simplified so they know exactly the most important things so they are not sorting through the data they are now managing the driving experience. Yet they have to have access to all the communications, the navigation, to guidance, the control, the entertainment…. This is exactly what we are now doing with Ford.”

At the CES Keynote he unveiled recent advances with My Ford Touch (Which includes Ford Sync) – Ford’s entertainment/information system which competes with GM’s ONSTAR. An interesting difference in focus is Mulally’s desire for My Ford Touch to be an interface that gives access to evolving technology while keeping driver focus on the road.  A willingness to open up the platform as well as utilize the owners cell and entertainment devices seems like a broader more powerful vision than what ONSTAR now promises.

The differences add up when you look at published reports between this year’s Ford keynote and last years GM CEO Wagner keynote. This year Mulally spoke Ford products coming out this year while much of what Wagner spoke about appears to be years off. GM’s response to My Touch Ford is also interesting: GM’s product is considered better because you might loose your cell phone in an accident. GM appears to see ONStar as little more than a safety feature, while Ford sees their alternative as an overall cabin experience. I like the way Ford seems to be moving. (Disclosure: My mother-in-law spent many years working in a Ford plant. If she doesn’t hold that against them, neither will I.)

So the bike shop was instrumental in getting us off the ground in the first place and now the cockpit returns the favor by providing lessons that improve safety, focus and entertainment for the driver. Cool.

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9 Responses to Flying With A Good Idea

  1. Brad Shorr says:

    Hi Fred, Very telling insight on how innovation and design unfold! My first reaction (as a marketer), is that while Ford’s design approach seems conceptually more compelling, GM’s approach makes for better theater, and thus stronger marketing. GM has commercials where a helpless wife and child are stranded on a deserted road and ONStar comes to the rescue. This is reminiscent of the brilliant Michelin commercials of old, with the infant inside the tire. How does Ford match that in order to sell the “overall cabin experience”? It’ll be an interesting challenge.
    .-= Brad Shorr´s last blog ..How Twitter and LinkedIn Make Life Easier in B2B =-.

  2. Hi Brad, I think that is what GM was counting on. OnStar was visionary when it was first introduced. It also left Ford with very little breathing room to come in with another safety product also ran. I think they are counting on the wiz bang factor to degrade the theater factor of safety. “Of course a Ford calls when you’re in an accident… don’t they all?” Best defense against powerful technology can sometimes be to adopt it and make it look old hat.

  3. LaVonn says:

    When cell phones were new to the broad market the first positioning they used (especially for women) was safety. The market (especially women) grew past that rapidly but it was a great entry point message. I am guessing the same can be said for this.

    Great post!

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  5. Fred,
    The “whole cockpit experience” concept. The “how” we experience something is in my opinion huge ripe innovative territory in any number of areas. I’d like to see some aerospace guys into public transportation too.
    .-= Janice Cartier´s last blog ..How Do We Find Our Way In? =-.

  6. Of course I meant ground public transportation. LOL
    .-= Janice Cartier´s last blog ..How Do We Find Our Way In? =-.

  7. Super sonic buses. Way cool. 🙂

  8. J.D. Meier says:

    Cross-pollination is a beautiful thing!
    .-= J.D. Meier´s last blog ..10 Ways to Improve How You Manage Information =-.

  9. Andrew says:


    It often seems to work that way – lessons learned in one field turning out to be no less relevant in another related field.
    .-= Andrew´s last blog ..The importance of shareholder manners =-.

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