Future TrendsAs AEM celebrates its 125th anniversary this year, we celebrate the rich history of an industry that’s never stopped evolving. But, with the guidance of one of the world’s most well-known experts in future trends and technology, we also look to the next 125 years and what the future holds for equipment manufacturers.

Sheryl Connelly holds the title of Chief Futurist at the Ford Motor Company, and publishes the Annual “Looking Further with Ford” trends report. For more than 20 years, she’s been tasked with helping company executives prepare for what’s on the third horizon. In this episode, she talks about the importance of applying a futurist mindset to the heavy equipment industry and seven trends that are reshaping the business world on a global scale.

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Sheryl Connelly: I'll be the first to tell you that nobody can predict the future, but I do believe that some of us can create it. And you can only do that if you have a meaningful, purposeful conversation about what sort of future is most beneficial to you or your organization.

Dusty Weis: Hello and welcome to another edition of the AEM Thinking Forward Podcast, advancing the equipment manufacturing industry. I'm Dusty Weis, and in this edition we're joined by one of the world's leading futurists, Sheryl Connelly from the Ford Motor Company. You may have seen one of her TED talks on YouTube. We discuss seven global trends and how they're affecting the heavy equipment industry, as well as the need for a futurist mindset as members contemplate AEM's 125th anniversary and what the future might hold. Plus, Sheryl tells us about the training and qualifications it takes to be a futurist, and her answers might surprise you.

Dusty Weis: But that's what we aim to do here on the AEM Thinking Forward Podcast, where each month we explore a new subject area to help keep your business on the cutting edge of the heavy equipment industry. To help us do that, make sure that you're subscribed to our podcast feed so you get an update every time there's a new episode. We're always working to keep it fresh here on the podcast as well, and we'd really appreciate your feedback. You can post a comment, rate us or leave us a review in whatever your favorite podcasting app is. I can tell you personally that we do read every bit of feedback you give.

Dusty Weis: So on with the show. As AEM celebrates its 125th anniversary this year, we celebrate the rich history of an industry that's never stopped evolving, but we also look forward to the next 125 years and what the future holds for equipment manufacturers. And as part of that process, the AEM members who attend this year's annual conference November 18th through 20th will be treated to a presentation by one of the world's most well known experts in future trends in technology. Sheryl Connelly holds the title of Chief Futurist at the Ford Motor Company and publishes the annual Looking Further with Ford trends report. For more than 20 years, she's been tasked with helping company executives prepare for what's on that third horizon, and her TED talks have been viewed and shared the world over. Ford futurist Sheryl Connelly, thanks so much for joining us on the AEM Thinking Forward podcast.

Sheryl Connelly: Thanks for having me, Dusty.

Dusty Weis: So Sheryl, I want to dive into the insights from your latest report and talk about the future of construction and agriculture in a moment. But first, futurist is not a title that you find in a lot of corporate org charts or in the want ads. What does the job entail and how do you do it?

Sheryl Connelly: So the answer might surprise you. The way that I see my role as a futurist is to actually remind people that no one can predict the future. And yet everyone does it. People who get married, they assume that'll be for a lifetime. You make an investment, you assume it'll pay off in the long run. And companies, organizations, institutions, they often tend to believe that the thing that once made them successful, will guarantee their success going forward. And my job is to challenge those notions, ask people to think through the consequences. If their plans don't turn out, if the environment isn't ready to receive the plan that they have in store, what are the underlying assumptions? What needs to happen for their plan to work? And if those things don't happen, what happens to their plan? My goal was never to prove anyone wrong. It's asking them simply to think through the consequences if their decisions are wrong. What's the scale of the impact?

Dusty Weis: It's, in a lot of ways, I feel like you're almost a professional Devil's advocate, and you don't see futurism as curriculum at a lot of universities or trade schools. So how do you get into that line of work? What makes you so uniquely qualified to do what you do?

Sheryl Connelly: So it's funny that you said it. I think that the title should be changed to polite contrarian. We were talking about our Midwestern roots, and I think that anybody can be a contrarian, but you have to do it in a way that keeps you in the conversation that people don't shut you out. This is a very unlikely career path that I find myself on and I do feel that I'm extraordinarily lucky, but it's not a path that I would have ever foreseen. I grew up in metro Detroit, I studied finance in undergrad, I went to law school because there were no jobs, and when I was in law school, I could see there were no jobs, so I got my MBA at the same time.

Sheryl Connelly: So I had this bachelor's degree, a master's degree, and a Juris doctorate. And the very first job I landed was as a secretary. I did practice law or a short period of time. My standard answer is to say, is I practiced long enough to know that I'd made a very expensive mistake. But along the way, I met my husband in law school and he doesn't practice either, so no regrets. But after having practiced law for a short period of time, I wanted to see what the business world could offer. So I wrote to Ford Motor Company with a hope that I might be considered for a position in their finance department. Instead, I got recruited for marketing, sales and service, which meant that I found myself in the unlikely position of wholesaling cars to dealers.

Sheryl Connelly: I'm not a car person, and certainly never saw myself as a salesperson, but the dealers were really extraordinary. And I think as in most jobs, particularly so in sales, it's really relationship based and I enjoyed the people and they were so generous with their time and their expertise. They taught me everything I know about cars and the industry today. And I stayed on that path for a little while and very unexpectedly found myself on the global trends and futuring team. I didn't even know the function existed and I learned on the job what it took, and I realized that, while I hadn't planned this future, the things I had done along the way had helped prepare me.

Sheryl Connelly: The bachelor's of finance taught me the business fundamentals. The MBA taught me how to apply those theories. The law degree taught me how to do the research, which is really a fundamental part. And you have to be persuasive, but it's important to be able to defend your point of view with some logic, with some documentation that's easy for people to follow, that's transparent. And then finally, I do rely on my sales experience, not in the typical way, but when you're going to ask somebody to think about an unknown, uncertain future that could play out five, 10 and 20 years from now, you need to know whether they have an appetite for that type of conversation. And if they don't, then you have to redirect the conversation so you can still have substantively the same conversation. And I always feel like I need to be able to read if that audience is buying what I'm selling. So I'm grateful for my days wholesaling cars to dealers.

Dusty Weis: It sounds like so many of the most interesting people that I've ever met in my life that you wound up being just a product of all the experiences and education that you had along the lines, plus a maybe a little healthy dollop of luck that helped you land what seems like the perfect job for you at the end of the day.

Sheryl Connelly: Absolutely. I tell people I feel like it was divine intervention. In fact, I used to tell people that I was the luckiest person in Ford Motor Company. I felt like I've won the lottery, but then I stopped telling people that because everyone started asking me when I was going to rotate out of the job. "When are you going to make room for somebody else?" But I tell you all of that background because I humbly believe that if I can think like a futurist, anyone can think like a futurist. I've had the good fortune of doing only that for the last 15 plus years, but it is a skill I think anyone can acquire.

Dusty Weis: Well and that, if anything else, is the perfect transition into this year's annual trends report. You published Ford's seventh annual trends report earlier this year, and in the past the report has taken a very broad approach to global trends that impact business and society, but this year you narrowed the focus a bit and drilled down on this notion of behavioral change. Why focus on that topic at this time and what stood out to you?

Sheryl Connelly: There was a very specific reason that, that became that area focus, and it started the year before. So you're referring to the 2019 trend book, and the 2018 trend book. There were two data points that I found very interesting. The first of which was, we spoke to people in nine different countries, and two thirds of those people said that they were overwhelmed by changes taking place in the world today. I think initially we had some speculation. So if that was written 2018, we had started the research in 2017, and there'd been a lot of political upheaval, particularly in the US.

Sheryl Connelly: So we might have been inclined to think that that was an American phenomenon, but of course Europe has Brexit, Shanghai, you'd had a really volatile stock market. India had been struggling with this re-modification policy, and Brazil continues to struggle. So the sentiment of being overwhelmed by changes taking place in the world actually resonated with people in ways that we never imagined. And I found that kind of sobering. The good news is, is that of two thirds of the people we spoke to said that they were overwhelmed, three quarters of the people we spoke to also said they still believed in an individual's ability to bring about positive change.

Sheryl Connelly: So that was the launching point for the 2019 trend book, because we really wanted to understand what were the underlying drivers of change? How do people respond to change? Did it excite them? Did it bring them hope? Was it caused by fear? And what we realized is that change is obviously very, very complicated. It means different things to different people. More people say that it's driven by hope than fear, but some people still say that it makes them very uncomfortable. A large percentage of people said that it still made them uncomfortable.

Dusty Weis: This year's report included a worldwide survey as well. Can you real quick explain your methodology a bit on that?

Sheryl Connelly: So we went to 14 different countries. We do at least a thousand online surveys in each market, except in this case I think we split two markets. I think that UAE was split with another market. But we do that just to get a sample. It's interesting. We don't use surveys to figure out the trends. What we do is we have a point of view. Here are the trends that we think are interesting. Here's something to watch.

Sheryl Connelly: So I think some of the things that really called out in this year's trend was like the digital detox. More and more people saying that they're looking for ways to disconnect. That they think mandatory timeouts would be a good thing. And even how people navigate social media. So we have these points of view going in, and then we try to test them. And what we're looking for is to see what markets have the greatest disparity. Where do you see numbers higher or lower, and can we figure out why?

Dusty Weis: Well, diving into these seven bulleted takeaways then, and there's more than seven, but there were the seven main points that stuck with me. Firstly, there's what you refer to as the tech divide between people who see technology as a force for good in the world, and those who don't. Now I'm as much a fan of Black Mirror as anyone else.

Sheryl Connelly: I love the show.

Dusty Weis: Oh, it's so good, but most of our popular entertainment portrays technology is this dangerous, scary thing. Is that how most people actually see it?

Sheryl Connelly: I think that what people are seeing is that we have become extremely reliant on having ubiquitous digital mobile technology, and it has changed our lives in countless ways that have been improvements. When we talk about the tech divide, what we were trying to explore was how people were starting to see unintended consequences, things that they hadn't realized. So not taking this on from a political standpoint, but I think a good example is those people that said, "I love social media. It's a great way for me to stay in touch with my family and friends, particularly those that are geographically remote from where I am. But I hadn't realized along the way that I was reading articles that might not have come from authentic source, that might've had an agenda or political leaning that was different than my own. And that I had unwittingly been exposed to this and nobody ever told me that, that was going to be part of the deal."

Dusty Weis: And do you see that play out as well in the way that people react to new technologies like autonomous vehicles? Because I know that, that's a big one that we're seeing right now in agriculture and construction is the rollout of these new autonomous vehicles that work in farm fields or on construction sites. And the people building them might be really excited about it, but then you get actually out into the field and there's this moment of hesitation where the contractors and farmers that buy these machines say, "Well hang on a second. I'm not necessarily sure that this is something that I want yet."

Sheryl Connelly: Yeah, and that transcends all categories, all professions. Everyone's worried that automation and autonomous in the more extreme form of automation will create great unemployment. And I tend to find myself in the glass half full side. I'm more of an optimist and a pessimist, and there are those who say that we need not worry, that what will happen is that machinery, the sophistication in technology, will free us up of the mundane task and allow us to do higher order thinking, or work, or meaningful contributions. I'd like to believe that's true. What I wonder though is that what if we talked about artificial intelligence as augmented intelligence, so that it didn't suggest implicitly that it was going to replace us, that it was a substitute for us, but that it could actually make us better at what we do.

Sheryl Connelly: And there are documented studies on this. I mean, doctors that work in the field of radiology can outperform a computer in terms of accuracy, because what ends up happening is that doctors have the nuance experience of saying, "Well, that shadow really isn't anything to worry about." Or they'll have this vast knowledge of saying that's something we're not going to have false positives here, but computers generally call up more false positives than a seasoned doctor would. But when you take an artificial intelligence system and pair it, with an experienced radiologist, the performance of that radiologist just goes up dramatically. So I think as we think about these types of tools, we have to think about how we can look at them as collaborative opportunities.

Dusty Weis: I've heard the point made before by other experts in the field that, well artificial intelligence might be better than humans at crunching numbers. Humans are still better at learning from the results of that number crunching and that's why they work better as a team. And so I think you make a strong case for the carrot argument in technological adoption, but for AEM's members whose customers maybe aren't sold on the technology yet, there's also a stick to go with that carrot, right?

Sheryl Connelly: That's a tough one because Moore's Law says that if they wait, the technology can get better, and I could get cheaper, but sometimes the pace of technology is causing so much disruption that those who hesitate get left behind

Dusty Weis: As we continue through your 2019 trend report, the second big takeaway has to do with the influence of social media, and you alluded to this earlier, but there's this growing need to detox from that environment. In fact, you've found that more than two thirds of adults globally think that there should be mandatory timeouts from their digital devices. Why is digital detox such a growing trend, and what does it mean for manufacturers in this day and age?

Sheryl Connelly: Well, the detox I think is interesting and I think most people want to think about the detox in terms of social media. I'm a parent of teenage daughters and you go, "Oh, you're spending way too much time on Instagram and other social platforms." I don't even think about it in that regard. I think about how commonplace it's become to multitask. Most of society has convinced themselves that in some way, shape or form that they're effective at multitasking. But research suggests that only 2% of the world's population can successfully multitask. And it's little wonder because what happens is the brain cannot work on two complex things at the same time. And so it toggles back and forth and you lose great efficiency in your thought and analysis when you do that.

Sheryl Connelly:  I've heard of put it this way, what happens when you multitask is that your brain loses its ability to separate the critical pieces of information from the background noise. So in essence what we do is we make decisions that are basically uninformed. I mean the research that we endeavor to do goes in one ear and out the other. Like even if it's not higher order things, people go "Well you can chew gum and walk at the same time." But there is research that says that if you and I were to drive, start out at the same location and say that we're going to meet 100 miles away. And during the a 100 mile drive, I talked to my best friend, my husband, and you talked to no one on the phone.

Sheryl Connelly: Research shows that people who talk on the phone take longer to arrive at their destination than people who don't talk on the phone when they're driving. So there is some impact on our efficiency. So we see people changing the way they think about work, and even attention spans are shrinking. A couple of years ago, there was this really fun report that claimed human beings had a shorter attention span than goldfish. Humans have eight seconds, goldfish have nine seconds.

Sheryl Connelly: What's even more alarming though, is that almost 20 years ago, the average attention span for humans was 12 seconds. Not a very large number in either right? But to look at the dramatic decline and that some people believe that there is a potential correlation to smart devices. 2000 we weren't dealing with all these digital devices that constantly kept us at the ready, and research suggests that being on call all the time can lead to great fatigue. It can create irritability, anxiety, even depression.

Dusty Weis: You know what I think we need to do to test to be sure? Gift the goldfish smartphones, see what happens.

Sheryl Connelly: I think that's a great idea.

Dusty Weis: Point number three in your 2019 Ford trends report does this idea of reclaiming control in self improvement.-What did your survey reveal about the attitudes in this space?

Sheryl Connelly: So reclaiming control I think is an interesting one. I think that people are feeling like they need greater agency in their life in many different ways. So we were looking at the tools in terms of self-improvement. There are so many that are driven apart by a growing set of tools that make it easier to achieve, track and even set your goals. But I think it's also part that people don't like the way the world is changing around them. So they're taking back control for themselves. In our research, we found that 84% of the people we spoke to around the world said that they have done something in the last year, some sort of small step to improve their life. And of those, 92% said that they were still following through on those steps. I think that we as a species continue to try to find ways to improve and enrich our lives.

Dusty Weis: And that's a really good feeling when you can take a concrete step towards self-improvement and then look back a year later and see that it's still working, that you're still improving in that way. And I think that one major facet that manufacturers should take note of here is that growing capability for employees to work remotely. And you mentioned that in your report too. The growing viability of technologies that let people collaborate across vast distances. How is that helping in this space?

Sheryl Connelly: Well, it's funny that you talk about the trend book, because the trend book, we work with a small boutique firm that does the graphics on it, and I do love the work that they do, but they're a very small team, and one of the team members exists in Australia. And they work on it until the work day is almost over, and they pass it off to somebody in China who works on it for their timeframe and pass it onto somebody in Europe, who then passes the work onto somebody in New York, who then passes on to somebody in California. So literally this collaboration is taking place with five, maybe six people worldwide, but it's almost being worked on 24 hours a day. So those things wouldn't happen without these types of tools that you're talking about.

Dusty Weis: That's fascinating. We're talking with Sheryl Connelly, the Chief Futurist of Ford Motor Company, and for a very long time in the heavy equipment industry where AEM comes from, the people who buy and operate our member's heavy equipment have identified, on a very personal level, with the brands in our industry. I mean get a farmer started talking about what brand of tractor he drives sometimes, and you'll still be sitting there two hours later. But according to point number four in your report, it seems like this is a growing trend with technology as well now. So what role is technology playing in shaping identity these days?

Sheryl Connelly: And identity is so complicated. When I was growing up, my mom was referred to as a housewife. Her mother might've been also called a housekeeper, a stay-at-home-mom, but we usually only had one label for how we identified. But today, identity's so fluid and it's contextually based. I mean, I think of myself as wife, mother of two, soccer mom out in the suburbs, and then the office I put on my Chief Futurist hat. So it really is dependent on the context in which you're presenting yourself, but then add to the virtual world. Now put in the complexity of the social media element and how you choose to portray your lifestyle, your priorities, your values. Online identity becomes that much more complicated.

Dusty Weis: Point number five in the report is one that it's also one of the trickiest ones to get nailed down, work life balance. What did you find there?

Sheryl Connelly: I actually think that work life balance is a little bit tricky, and something that people have talked about for a very long time. And it seems to be the Holy grail in terms of trying to actually achieve it. What I realized through our research is that the way we compartmentalize work has changed, and you add to that the race for talent. Companies are increasingly acknowledging that employees don't live to work, they work to live, and so how they approach their jobs are changing. And you see this even more so among the younger generations. So the average millennial who right now is age between 24 and 38 years of age, it's expected that they won't stay with any one employer.

Sheryl Connelly: Well their average job tenure rather is 4.7 years. I think about my father who worked for the same company for 38 years, and you take that total different paradigm shift. In fact, a young person, whoever found themselves working at the same company for 30 years might actually feel shame, not pride. Regret in having become so complacent that they stayed at the same place for so long. And of course the benefit package doesn't incentivize them to stay, so they're really out to learn what they can and use as a stepping stone for something new and different.

Dusty Weis: You mentioned the benefit package, and that's certainly something that a lot of AEM members are taking a second look at in this day and age, and what are some of the new types of benefits that manufacturers are using to attract and retain that top talent?

Sheryl Connelly: If you do some research and you look at these fortune magazine's top 100 companies to work for, they always include some, what are they unusual benefits? And for years, things like life coach has shown up, paid sabbaticals. Now paid sabbaticals have historically been that domain of university professors under the publish or perish edict so they can take time off to write that book. But how we see people outside of academia taking these sabbaticals, and it's this notion that we all can benefit, and particularly in a marketplace that really values creativity and innovation, sometimes you need to find that time to recharge, to refuel. So I believe Nike is one of those brands that does that. Anecdotally I've heard stories about how Nike takes that time so seriously that if you choose to take your sabbatical, they shut off your access to email so that you really, really disconnect.

Dusty Weis: That is incredible to me because like a lot of people I think in the modern working world, being that disconnected seems so impossible. In fact, the last time I didn't have access to email, I was 50 miles from the nearest road in a cabin without electricity or cell service in Northern Ontario, and that was 12 years ago. That's how ubiquitous it's become. But getting back to the reasons for this push to attract and retain talent, what do you see as the factors that are prompting companies to have to get creative and offer these new benefits? What's driving the shortage of talent in the workforce?

Sheryl Connelly: It really comes down to the basics of demographics. In the 1970s, the average fertility rate worldwide was five babies for every woman. Today, the numbers 2.4 and the biggest driver for that is education. The more educated your population, the fewer babies that women tend to have, and so it's not surprising then, if you go to some of the wealthiest countries, they're having fewer babies, they're below replenishment rate. They're not having enough babies to offset the deaths, and that means you don't have the workforce to fuel that economic engine. And that's where the race for talent comes in. They have a smaller pool, and then they also have to make sure that they're picking from the most competitive pool.

Dusty Weis: Do you think we'd be having this same conversation if the unemployment rate were eight or 9% instead of the historic lows that we see right now?

Sheryl Connelly: Yes, because I think this is a long game. It's going to take a while for this to play out. But if you look at what's known as the dependency ratio, which measures how many workers are supporting your non-working population, we know that Japan will reach a future in next couple of years perhaps, where they actually have more retirees than workers. And when they find themselves in that deficit position, the economic fallout will be vast. They'll lose their sphere of influence and they'll migraine elsewhere, China and India are two obvious choices just because of their sheer size. But China's aging more rapidly than any other country in the world. And India is one of the youngest countries in the world. And these things are going to play out. They're going to have dividends. They're literally called demographic dividends. The impact it will have on your economy.

Dusty Weis: As long as we're on the subject of ubiquitous global trends. Eco momentum is the sixth big point in your report. And we see it paralleled in the heavy equipment industry as well, not just the trend toward building cleaner machines, but more sustainable cities as well. So what did your research find about attitudes toward that?

Sheryl Connelly: Well, it's interesting. I think consumers overwhelmingly agree that environmental progress will depend on human changing their behaviors. And despite this awareness, it doesn't always translate into action. And we're kind of curious as to why. Is it that it's too big a leap? People can't imagine the disruption, or is the fear based on something that's so remote it doesn't actually feel real? But we started to wonder what it would take to have people literally change their behavior. So for instance, we asked them, "Would you change what you ate if you thought it could help save the planet?" And the majority of people we spoke to in 14 countries said yes. The country that agreed the highest degree was China. The country that agreed at the lowest level was the United States of 56%. So a little more than one out of two said that they would be willing to make that sacrifice.

Dusty Weis: It's that American individualism at work .

Sheryl Connelly: It is indeed that.

Dusty Weis: Finally there is the growing number of options that people have to choose from when it comes to transportation. And this last year, this was a big milestone for me, but I personally summoned an Uber for the first time. I think that means they're going to take away my millennial card. But what did your survey find about the number of people exploring alternative forms of transportation?

Sheryl Connelly: We've been talking about this for a really long time. Inside of Ford, and Bill Ford is the executive chair of our board. He is the great grandson of Henry Ford. Back in 2011, he gave a speech that he said, "I've begun to worry what happens if I continue to sell as many cars as possible." What he was really looking to was the gridlock that it was causing. I mean places like [inaudible 00:27:43] and Beijing, New York, and LA to a much lesser degree, but the gridlock is so great, there's very little joy in the drive, especially if you're just moving at a snail's pace. And so increasingly we know customers prioritize their time and they want to make sure they can get from point A to point B.

Sheryl Connelly: And sometimes a ride hailing service is just fine. Sometimes the scooter rental, even a bicycle rental. So what we're trying to do is make sure that we give people a spectrum of choices. We call it multimodal journey planning. So perhaps if you live in a place like Chicago, you drive your car into the train station, you pick up the train, you take the train into town, but then you still have that last mile to figure out how you want to get from the train to your final destination. Do you rent a scooter? Do you ride a bicycle? Do you hail a cab? Do you summon an Uber or a Lyft?

Dusty Weis: I'm stating the obvious here, but Ford still primarily builds cars, and you'd think that the notion that people are evolving in their transportation habits would be a difficult subject, corporate speaking, but Ford put it right there in black and white in this report. What should we take away from that decision?

Sheryl Connelly: I think you should take away from the fact that Ford is really willing to contemplate any service that they think will better meet the needs in the marketplace. So it's no longer just about sheet metal and how many cars you can get on the road, it's how can you move people? How can we be a provider of the movement of goods and the movement of people? And that's opened up a lot of doors to the way that we think because up until now, we thought of ourselves more as a manufacturer of automobiles and now we see ourselves as a service provider, and that changed the conversation completely.

Dusty Weis: This move among manufacturers from the role of product provider to service provider is one that's being felt in the heavy equipment industry as well. AEM even conducted an executive workshop on the topic for its members last year. And with construction constituting such an important part of our industry, sweeping changes in transportation trends are also a big area of interest to AEM's members. So how are these trends going to change the way that we build roads in cities in the future?

Sheryl Connelly: That's a really interesting area to explore, and as Ford embarks on this reshaping our value to the marketplace, we also rethink who our customers are. So instead of it just being the man or the woman's sitting behind the wheel of an automobile, we now look to cities as our new customers. What are the goals for the city? What kind of quality of life are they trying to create and how can we help facilitate that? How can we help them deliver that? So we know that as we move forward, we need much greater collaboration and integration.

Dusty Weis: That's a really fascinating way to look at the problem. And I know that a shift in mindset like that in a company like Ford is tricky because Ford is a lot like many of the AEM's member companies in a lot of ways. It's been making cars for more than a century and many AEM members have that history in organizational inertia as well. You also noted in the report Ford's desire to take the lead in shaping the change that's on the horizon, rather than hiding from it or fighting it. What lessons can and should the heavy equipment industry take away from that attitude?

Sheryl Connelly: Well you talked about the legacy, and legacy's tricky because everyone talks about legacy means that you have cost and infrastructure, but one of the things that I really enjoyed about this year's trend book was a question we posed parents. Would you rather your child ride in a self-driving vehicle than ride with a stranger? And two thirds of the people we spoke to said they'd rather their kid be in a self-driving vehicle. And so there's something about the legacy of a brand that's been around for 100 years that people feel a connection to it that I think will play favorably for us, or at least we hope so, when we start moving into a space where you're bringing forth a lot of technology that's unprecedented, not yet tried and true.

Dusty Weis: I would say this report easily falls under the purview of corporate intelligence. I mean surveying 13,000 people worldwide is not a cheap undertaking. And yet every year for seven years, Ford publishes this report and makes it available to anyone who wants to read it. Why share it with the world?

Sheryl Connelly: So it's funny, when I started doing this work 15 years ago, I was told that we could ever discuss our work outside of Ford. That it was proprietary top secret stuff. The kind of thing that if I told you, then I'd have to kill you sort of thing.

Dusty Weis: Goodness.

Sheryl Connelly: And over the years through restructuring, the team got disbanded and I was the only person left. And in that situation I needed to turn to a lot of outside experts, have conversations with basically anyone that was willing to have one with me. And as it goes in so many things in life, I found that the more that I share, the more I got back. And quite literally or research was better and our insights were richer. And so the kind of conversation you and I are having is a big part of it. I learn from you and you learn from me, and I think it's the beauty of the subjects that we put in there. They should be universal enough that anyone could pick them up and see if they can see the world through a slightly different lens.

Dusty Weis: Well, I'm flattered to just be sitting here having this conversation with you. AEM of course, is made up of more than a thousand heavy equipment manufacturers across North America and some of its members have been in business for 125 years or longer. How could organizations like that benefit from having a futurist like you on their staff?

Sheryl Connelly: I think that every organization needs a futurist, but I would tell you that they don't have to be called a futurist. I often find that people that work in the domain of strategy, product development, even market research or consumer insights, often overlap with the types of things that I am talking about. But here's the piece of advice that I ask your listeners to take away, is that the next time you're in a meeting and somebody says, "That's not going to happen. Not in my lifetime, not under this leadership, not over my dead body." Pause there and ask, what would it look like if it did happen? Just because you don't think it's going to happen doesn't mean you shouldn't explore it. Because what we're trying to do is explore things that are plausible, not probable. And there's a vast difference there.

Dusty Weis: In other companies that you're aware of that have considered hiring a futurist, what's the typical reaction when the idea is proposed? And how do you make the case to a corporate boardroom that you need someone on staff who's responsible for being Devil's advocate like you are?

Sheryl Connelly: Well, I think you turn to history and say that nobody has ever consistently or successfully predicted the future. It's almost a fool's errand, and then it goes back to what we said at the beginning. I don't just call myself contrarian, I call myself a polite contrarian because you need to bring people along with you on the conversation. And my experience has been is that people actually really like talking about these things. They like contemplating it. And I'll be the first to tell you that nobody can predict the future, but I do believe that some of us can create it. And you can only do that if you have a meaningful, purposeful conversations about what sort of future is most beneficial to you or your organization.

Dusty Weis: Well, last question here, Sheryl then. When you address the AEM annual conference later this year, you're going to have as your audience, some of the biggest influencers at some of the biggest manufacturers on the planet. What do you think that this audience needs to hear about the future and what's your takeaway for them?

Sheryl Connelly: My big takeaway is this. There's also [inaudible 00:35:12] that are skeptical and I not pretending to be a psychic. I hope I present my information in a way that is inclusive and says anyone can do this. But I urge you to do it however you decided to take it on because if you don't think about the long term, you're setting your organization up for a future of constraint over a future of choice.

Dusty Weis: Well, I think those are wise words on which to end. Ford futurist, Sheryl Connelly, thanks for joining us on the AEM Thinking Forward Podcast. As I mentioned, Sheryl will be just one of the keynote speakers at the AEM annual conference November 18th through the 20th. We only just scratched the surface of the insights that she has to offer. Plus there are many, many more fascinating speakers on the lineup. It's also the industry's premier networking event and a chance for you to enjoy banquets, recreation, and a gala all on Florida's fabulous Gulf coast. The event is in Marco Island this year, just South of Fort Myers and it's not too late to register. Go to aem.org/annual to learn more.

Dusty Weis: They're also still two of AEM's thinking forward, educational and networking events left for you to attend this year. The first one, Case Studies on Using Artificial Intelligence to Enhance Business Outcomes is coming up on October 22nd in Milwaukee. There's a special members only workshop the day before that one on October 21st. Go to aem.org/think to register. And to Mark your calendar for November 5th in St. Louis where creating an innovative environment will be the topic of discussion at Bayer CropScience.

Dusty Weis: So that is going to wrap up this edition of the AEM Thinking Forward Podcast. For more valuable industry insights, make sure you're signed up for the AEM industry advisor, our twice weekly e-newsletter. Visit aem.org/subscribe. If you need to get in touch with me, shoot me an email at podcast@aem.org. The AEM Thinking Forward Podcast is brought to you by the Association of Equipment Manufacturers and produced by Pod Camp Media branded podcast production for businesses, podcampmedia.com. Little Glass Men does the music for us. For AEM, thanks for listening. I'm Dusty Weis.