Ford’s Head Of Innovation On The Importance Of Talking To Your Team


Joel Johnson

November 20, 2015

Ken Washington is Ford’s explorer. A former Lockheed Martin rocket scientist with a doctorate in nuclear engineering, the company’s VP of research and advanced engineering is leading its effort to experiment, working on autonomous cars, vehicle-subscription services, and even a smart bicycle that syncs to an iPhone. His mandate: “To advance the technology, and to innovate new capabilities and technologies that make our cars great, fun to drive, green, safe, and smart.”

Key tools

“Email is huge for me. It’s really important to have an email-management strategy. I color-code emails that are from key contacts and strategic partners, so when they come to me I see them in the massive digital pile. I’ve been developing and honing this system for the past 10 years. The second tool I use is paper. There’s no substitute for it. You don’t need a Wi-Fi hot spot to get it to work. It never runs out of batteries. I start each week with a list of the things I want to accomplish and a list of key actions.”

Essential daily task

“Interacting face-to-face with my team. When I’m [at Ford’s headquarters] in Dearborn, I consider it a good day when I can spend at least 30 minutes to an hour talking with someone on my team, inspiring them, giving them some energy, creating some enthusiasm, so they can do the same with their team.”

Go-to motivator

“I put down whatever I’m working on, pick up my lab glasses, and walk into a random lab or office to get a sense of what my team is working on.”

Decompression method

“I’ve got more hobbies than I probably should, because I really love so many things outside of work. I love music; I pick up my guitar. I love photography; I’ll go on a photo shoot. I love tinkering with technology. Sometimes I’ll just get out my soldering iron and an electronics board and build something.”

This article was written by Joel Johnson from Fast Company and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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