How Ford's Chief 'Futurist' Figures Out What Consumers Will Want Decades From Now

Sheryl Connelly

Photo: Studio4onShawTV via YouTube

If there’s anything auto companies have learned in recent years, it’s that you can’t trust the status quo.A huge part of Ford’s turnaround involved listening to consumers and figuring out exactly what the market wants — as opposed to what the company thinks consumers want.

Ford’s head of global consumer trends and futuring, Sheryl Connelly, works on this problem every day.

She recently spoke with Dale Buss at Forbes about her job: 

Connelly mainly engages what she calls “STEEP” — social, technological, economic, environmental and political — trends. In doing so, she collects, analyses and synthesizes thoughts and ideas from leaders in academia, health care, government and the corporate world, including grist from fellow futurists at Wal-Mart, Mars and Nike.

Discerning trends is “pattern recognition,” she said. “It’s like standing on the moon looking at a battlefield on earth,” said Connelly, who’s been with Ford since 1996 and part of its global trends department for eight years. “Nothing is very close. I’m looking out two to 20 years. Of course I’ve got responsibilities in the here and now as well.”

One current trend Connelly is looking at is consumer decision fatigue. Offering too many choices for any given product — and in Ford’s case, “features” within the product — can paralyze consumers. On top of that, there’s even more pressure for auto companies, since buying a car is often a once-in-a-decade investment. Connelly says that Ford is “starting to address this by simplifying our packages.”

Now read 14 Facts About Decision-Making And Willpower >

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.