Bill Ford, Mark Zuckerberg Focus on Innovation During Facebook Leader’s Ford Visit

Mark Zuckerberg visits Ford

Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg visited Ford Motor Company Thursday, April 27 as part of his “Personal Year of Travel Challenge” to get out and talk to more people about how they're living, working and thinking about the future. In choosing to come to Michigan, he met with Ford employees to learn about their work and how they are incorporating new technology and innovation into design, product development and manufacturing.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg (left) tours Ford's Dearborn Truck Plant with Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford (right) and plant manager Brad Huff. Photo by: Sam VarnHagen

DEARBORN, Michigan - Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg got a crash course in Ford innovation Thursday, April 27 during his first-ever trip to Michigan.

He met with employees to learn about their work and how they are incorporating new technology into design, product development and manufacturing.

The visit started with Executive Chairman Bill Ford taking Zuckerberg for a tour of the Dearborn Truck Plant, showing him how we are using advanced sustainable manufacturing in our operations. He also worked on the assembly line at the plant, saw how the company prototypes and designs vehicles at our Product Development Center (PDC), and rode in the Ford Fusion Hybrid autonomous research vehicle. While at PDC, he met with President and CEO Mark Fields to get a feel for how the company is preparing for the future as it transforms to be an auto and mobility company.

Zuckerberg’s visit came as part of his “Personal Year of Travel Challenge.”

“Facebook helps people connect and build communities all over the world, but I was feeling like I was kinda out of touch with a lot of what was going on around our country,” he said. “So that’s a worthwhile challenge for 2017 to try to spend some time in each of the states that I haven’t been to and to see how people are working and how people are thinking about the future and different industries, and what peoples’ hopes and challenges are in their lives.”

Bill Ford also hosted a conversation, as part of the speaker’s series he started last year. The speaker’s series is designed to bring in fresh perspectives from leaders around the world, through outside voices that can help all employees stay curious and learn from others.

The two discussed the fast pace of change, culture, leadership and the importance of failure. 

“As people we all want to win, but actually if you’re trying to build an organization that’s innovative you need to build a culture that says it’s OK to fail or else you’re not going to get those outsized wins,” he said.

Ford said something our company and Facebook have in common is figuring out how to rapidly change and not drop the ball on what we do best. “How do you keep innovation alive at Facebook?” he asked.

“You want to have a mission and a vision for where the world is going to go,” Zuckerberg said. For Facebook, that vision is that they want every person in the world to have a voice, so they’re driven to ensure that everyone has those tools.

Ford said culture is something he spends a lot time on here, especially in light of what we went through as an industry – horrific times in ’07-’08 and our two major competitors going bankrupt – but Ford never took a bailout.

“I firmly believe it was because of our employees. I will always believe it was the culture of our company and how much people simply wouldn’t let us fail,” Ford said. “If anyone ever doubted the importance of culture, you see it at a time like that. But culture can’t be manufactured, and it can’t be acquired, and you can’t mandate it.”

Zuckerberg said one of the challenges of running a larger company is the need for different cultures in different places. Part of the complexity is making sure you have the right culture for different groups, but that company values flow through each area, he said. One thing Facebook is obsessed with is moving fast, which means you need to have a culture where it’s OK to put something out that’s not 100% polished in the beginning.

“We’re willing to learn as quickly as possible what our customers want from us by integrating quickly, getting that cycle time down, and that is how we will build the best things for the world over a 3, 5, 10-year horizon,” he said.

Click here to watch a video of the discussion, including questions from Ford employees.

Zuckerberg bookmarked his Ford visit with – what else – a Facebook post highlighting the employees he met and what he learned.

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