Q&A: Ford’s futurist knows kids today see status in their smartphones, not cars

Sheryl Connelly, Ford's in-house futurist. (credit: Ford Motor Company)

There can't be many job titles out there cooler than "futurist." And earlier this week, I sat down with Sheryl Connelly, who holds that position at the Ford Motor Company.

Connelly has been with Ford for two decades now, spending a few years in marketing before moving on to cover global trends and futuring 12 years ago. Her job isn't to think about the cars and trucks of tomorrow, though. "The company has no shortage of subject matter experts in that area," she told me. Rather, it's her job to look beyond the industry, identifying how patterns and forces in the wider world will influence consumer behavior. "Those are typically slow-moving, deeply societal-rooted trends, things like aging population, increasing urbanization. But we also try to engage more with the public about micro trends (that last two to five years rather than two to five decades)."

Ford recently released its 2016 trends, a list built after a series of workshops and consultations with experts around the world. Connelly said that when work began on the current collection last year, she saw there was a lot of disillusionment out there—the economy, a rise in global violence, widespread attention to police misconduct here in the US, and so on.

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