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Ford vs. Cisco: Two ways to approach innovation

Rob Enderle | Jan. 18, 2016
Columnist Rob Enderle compares Ford’s innovation approach with Cisco’s and concludes that a combination of both would work best. Here’s why.

One of the interesting things about the Toronto location was that by using innovations from other centers they were able to lower the build cost by $700,000, lower energy consumption, lower the costs of moves adds and changes, and create a far more friendly workspace that automatically adjusts for the employees using it. It is an operating showcase of how innovation can lower costs and increase employee effectiveness. So much so that the firm managing the building is taking the underlying concepts to all of their properties.

Blending/contrasting the concepts

The advantage to the first approach is that advancements are largely contained and focused on Ford exclusively so that change is driven into the company. The advantage to the second is that it improves sales, customer success, engagement and employee effectiveness in the center. The Ford effort has little direct impact on Ford customers and the Cisco effort has far less impact on how Cisco does things than the Ford effort does.  

This suggests a blended approach where a large company has a focused effort like Ford’s and used innovation centers like Cisco’s (to benefit from the lower costs of shared efforts and avoid the expense of solving problems that have already been solved), and their own Cisco-like innovation centers focused on helping customers use products more effectively. In Ford’s case this applies mostly to customers buying their business solutions, such as government and delivery companies.  

And here is the key, all of the efforts would be networked so that ideas could flow across them resulting in a synergy between vendors and clients that would be unprecedented in the modern age, but fully enabled with the collaborative technologies we are currently up to our necks in.  

Self-flying cars

We have long anticipated the idea that someday cars will be obsolete and that we’ll have our own flying car to commute in. That isn’t as far away now as you might think because the technology being developed for self-driving cars and delivery drones should be applicable to self-flying vehicles. One such concept was showcased at CES this year from China with an announced 2016 launch.   But it likely is only through the tight integration between companies on the cutting edge of self-driving, transportation, drones and artificial intelligence that this could happen quickly in the U.S. (By the way, for this effort, they might want to include Moller, who has been working on a flying car for decades).

If we were able to tightly network all of these areas of expertise toward this one goal it suddenly becomes possible. I believe a blending of the Ford and Cisco concepts could go a long way towards making that happen in the U.S. as opposed to China where it currently is more likely to emerge first (or, given the prototype, is already emerging). Something to think about this week.


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