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Thor Ibsen

Main Event: “How to Create in Internet Time”

A man of many countries and many disciplines, Thor Ibsen appeared earlier this year in Fast Company’s “Collision Course” story, which charted and dissected the digital progression of Ford, Toyota, and Volkswagen. The chief Internet activist at Ford Motor Co., Ibsen came to the RealTime panel armed with years of experience making the Web work quickly at a slow company.

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Ibsen is a member of Ford’s Speed Team and a relentless change agent whose job it is to declare and protect the customers’ preeminence in every transaction. That is the goal, he said, of the Ford Web entity as it moves into the 21st century and begins to empower buyers in ways that a typical car salesperson never could.

“A bad idea implemented well goes much further than a good idea not implemented at all,” said Ibsen, who has learned to work quickly and effectively in a transparent environment. Before his discussion with RealTime attendees, Ibsen spoke with Fast Company about connecting with customers, effecting change on a grand scale, and melding bricks and clicks into one.

Why are you here at RealTime Orlando?

The stimulation of great people, a great time, a great location, and new ideas helps me break out of my corporate life. No matter how radical or outside the corporate environment you are, getting away is critical in generating new ides and new perspectives.

What message do you hope to convey to RealTime participants?

I hope that they learn about courage. There are a lot of people working in large and medium-sized companies who don’t feel that they can have an impact on things. I want people to take away the message that no matter what level you are, you can change things if you have the courage to get it done. With courage comes the responsibility to do the right thing and be passionate about what you want to take out of your experience with the company.

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Where do great ideas come from?

We have a saying in our group that there are very few new great ideas, but a lot of great natural conclusions. Drawing out those conclusions is one thing. Getting them done is another. The creators of an invention are sometimes more critical than the invention itself. Particularly in big enterprises, it’s important that key implementers are part of the process.

We get ideas all over Ford. It’s amazing how many are similar and tie into the main focus or central themes that I call “lateral ideas.” Getting a team to come together and execute on those ideas is probably the most important piece of it all. Ideas come from people, collaboration, and getting there.

Where do you stand on the built to last/built to flip issue?

Brick and clicks are coming together as business as usual. There has been a radical transformation. A lot of the larger, older companies are waking up. We at Ford, for example, firmly believe that we are built to last, and we’re taking advantage of technology and e-commerce in a whole new sense that touches everything in the company. How we transform ourselves into a bricks-and-clicks enterprise is the next stage of a continuous effort to reinvent ourselves. We need people with a historical understanding of Ford, but we also need to infuse the company with a lot of good ideas from outside. We are looking for another corporate reinvention for the next 100 years of business.

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