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Ford Motor Co. president says get 'in the stew' of what's emerging

  • Jim Hackett, right, president and CEO of Ford Motor Company, with Diana Lawson, dean of the Seidman College of Business.
  • Diana Lawson, Jim Hackett and President Thomas J. Haas
  • Peter F. Secchia Lecture Series October 2 at the L. William Seidman Center.
  • Jim Hackett, left, with Peter F. Secchia

Posted on October 02, 2017

Jim Hackett, president and CEO of Ford Motor Company, told students during a speech at Grand Valley to surround themselves with people from different backgrounds. Hackett said that's how "killer" products are made.

"I take my team and tour universities and listen to TED Talks," said Hackett. "Get around smart people and gain knowledge. Put yourself in the middle of the stew that's emerging. Be a learn-it-all, not a know-it-all."

Hackett was the featured speaker for the Peter F. Secchia Breakfast Lecture October 2 at the L. William Seidman Center on the Pew Grand Rapids Campus.

He asked the crowd of students, business leaders and others, if given the opportunity, who would not ride in an autonomous car. Several hands were raised. "I wouldn't either," said Hackett. "The trust isn't there yet, but soon. I'm excited about the things that are coming."

Hackett said he is a supporter of design thinking and integrative thinking and commended Grand Valley leaders for incorporating design thinking methods into the curriculum through the university's Design Thinking Initiative. 

He showed a map of the history of communication, from the Pony Express to rail to the post office to email to Snapchat. "We have a map like this at Ford that shows the virtues that made Ford great," he said. 

When asked about how to implement change at a large company, Hackett referenced an eight-member team he put together whose members report directly to him. "The way you change a company is by getting a small group on board," he said.

Diana Lawson, dean of the Seidman College of Business, served as moderator for Hackett's visit.

Hackett has been at the helm of Ford Motor Company since May 2017. In 2014, Hackett retired as CEO of Steelcase after 30 years of helping transform the office furniture company into a global leader. 

At Grand Valley, Hackett served on the 2011 Honorary Executive Cabinet for the Building for Life campaign, the 2005 Honorary Executive Cabinet of the Innovation campaign and on the committee for the Engineering Laboratories Building campaign. He was also awarded the 1999 Grand Valley Leadership Award.