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Alan Mulally joins ‘Innovation power panel’ Keynote at CES

Wed, 11 Jan 2012

An ‘Innovation Power Panel' Keynote was the highlight of the second full morning of the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.

Underlining the importance of this event to the automotive industry, and the importance and weight the automotive field now carries in the consumer electronics sphere, Alan Mulally – President and CEO of Ford motor company – was part of a three-person panel exploring how companies innovate, cope with failure and the relentless pace of change in the electronics world.

Mulally was joined by Ursula Burns, Chairman and CEO of Xerox Corporation and John Stratto, Enterprise Executive at Verizon, the US telecoms company.

The topics discussed ranged from the role of the CEO to learning to use failure as a method through which companies can innovate, and on to how each of the respective companies had learned to collaborate and cope with the notion of ‘not invented here'.

But Mulally's core message about the way Ford does business, as well as its recent ‘success' when compared to some of its peers, was about having a clear strategy. Answering a question about how large companies motivate, retain and recruit the best talent, Mulally stated: "It's about how clear your strategy is. People need to understand your vision and be able to focus in clearly on it."

He later added, when talking about the culture of innovation, that "at Ford, we don't use the word failure. We try to understand why things have happened and improve on them. The minute people don't feel safe, don't feel like they're allowed to ‘fail', they feel threatened, retreat back into themselves and you won't get great stuff."

Perhaps the most important aspect of the debate centered around how America could haul itself out of the economic mire, go forward and be world leaders. Ursula Burns of Xerox issued a rallying call for the country to improve its education system saying: "We need to make science, technology, mathematics an exciting place to be. There's not one thing that doesn't depend on scientists, engineers and designers. This country will not be great again if we don't fix this fundamental problem. But it's up to companies like ours to show these kids this is an exciting place to work. It has to be cool."

Mulally added: "We're fighting for the soul of American. We grew up as innovators and it's fostered our economic growth. 70 percent of all research and development money spent effectively goes on manufacturing... but we need to get back to this core of what made the United States, and that's creating things, products, services that are great, that people want and doing it better than the competition." He cited the Explorer as an example of American manufacturing leadership that the company exporting to over 90 countries around the world.

Ford once again has a huge presence here at CES and Mulally spoke of his gratitude at having been invited as a keynote speaker once again. He reiterated how important the electronic industry and this event is to Ford. Reading between the lines he implied that this event, and the electronics industry at large, is where a large part of Ford's future lies.

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By Joe Simpson