Who: Amy King Schindler
Company: Ford Motor Co.
Has held title for: 9 months
previous title: Analyst, market-research office, Ford
Degree: BS, Kenyon College; MBA, University of Michigan
In an unpredictable world, how does Amy Schindler manage insights about the future? By honestly assessing Ford's shortcomings: "As a company, we haven't done very well at attracting the youth market." By developing initiatives to address those shortcomings. And by remaining humble: "When you're talking about the future, you'd be foolish to think that you can be right all of the time."
How far away is the future?
It takes 5 to 10 years to produce a new car or truck, so we have a much longer planning horizon than most companies. We have to ask what the world will look like in, say, 2010.
What ideas underlie your research?
A lot of our work is based on core values that are formed by generations. Baby Boomers have a certain set of values; Gen-Xers have another set of values. We look at what each generation does that matches its values.
Are customers good at describing the future?
We try to understand people's unmet needs — without expecting them to tell us about those needs. We have to observe customers, not just interview them. Even so, my grandmother still tells me what's wrong with her Lincoln!
A version of this article appeared in the January 1999 issue of Fast Company magazine.