Henry Ford - A Great Innovator

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Case Details:

Case Code : LDEN025
Case Length : 13 Pages
Period : 1903
Pub Date : 2003
Teaching Note :Not Available
Organization : Ford Motor Corporation Industry : Automobile
Countries : USA

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This case study was compiled from published sources, and is intended to be used as a basis for class discussion. It is not intended to illustrate either effective or ineffective handling of a management situation. Nor is it a primary information source.

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Introduction Contd...

Ford had formulated a philosophy of three Ps - People, Products and Profit - for his company. Explaining the relationship between the three Ps, he said in 1916, "I don't believe we should make such an awful profit on our cars. A reasonable profit is right, but not too much. I hold that it is better to sell a large number of cars at a reasonably small profit..... I hold this because it enables a larger number of people to buy and enjoy the use of a car and because it gives a larger number of men employment at good wages. Those are the two aims I have in life."7

Background Note

Ford was born on July 30, 1863 during the US Civil War in a farmland at Dearborn, near Detroit, Michigan. His mother passed away in March 1876. Later the same year, Ford got a job at the Michigan Car Company, but was sacked six days later for indicating a flaw in his foreman's work (Refer Exhibit I for important events in Ford's life). As a boy, Ford developed his interest in mechanics by taking watches apart to look at how they worked. He would take the watch apart and then make it work again by joining the components together. Describing Ford's nature, Brinkley said, "Like the automobile itself, Ford's mind was never stationary.

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He was antsy to the point of near insanity and always willing to roll the dice, taking calculated risks and dreaming of a better tomorrow."8 While still a school boy, Ford developed a steam turbine engine with a high number of revolutions per minute, which unfortunately burst and destroyed the school walls.

Ford had a tool kit at home, which included a screwdriver, designed from a knitting needle and a pair of pincers, shaped from a watch spring. He loved to 'tinker' with things and was nicknamed the 'Grand Tinkerer.' Ford dropped out of school at the age of 15. He had a strong aptitude for mechanics and engineering. He was keenly interested in learning how different things worked. Elucidating Ford's unique personality, James said, "Ford was a gregarious, well-liked youth, but not overly studious. He was a hands-on learner, always tinkering."9 In 1879, when Ford was 16, he ran away from home. He went to Detroit where he worked as a trainee in a machine shop called James Flower & Brothers (JF&B) to learn how machines were made...


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7]  As quoted in the book, Built to Last, by James Collins and Jerry Porras, HarperBusiness, 1994, page 53.

8]  As quoted in the article, "Ford at 100: A Century of Audacious Tinkering," by Douglas Brinkley, Detroit Free Press, June 12, 2003.

9]  As quoted in the article, "Henry Had the Dream," by Sheryl James, Detroit Free Press, March 27, 2003.


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