Seeing Around Corners

The hype and excitement around a new product, service or movement can cause a big buzz and adrenaline rush in the market. Visions of big profits dance in investors' heads and there is a mad rush to be the first successfully to market. Amidst this scramble for near-term financial success, unintended first, second, third levels of consequences come to light. Many of these can be ignored, forgotten or even completely unknown. 


We need to look no further than the smartphone. Initially, it provided the euphoria of unlimited freedom and connectedness, but we are now acknowledging screen and social media addiction, threats to privacy and cybersecurity, as well as a breakdown of democratic ideals. We are learning that it may not be such a good idea for the majority of the population to live like Elvis, with the world at our beck, call, and doorstep, via our phones.

One of the most scintillating industries at this time is autonomous mobility. According to the Global Autonomous Driving Market Outlook, 2018 report, the autonomous driving market is projected to reach up to $173 billion by 2030. To what extent this will be realized is unknown, as those investing and developing in this space are not yet generating revenue. That being said, the consensus is that this is an inevitable capability that will eventually pervade all things mobile.   

As the companies within the autonomous ecosystem refine the technology, and these vehicles become a reality in our everyday lives, the industry will eventually grow and thrive in the communities in which we work, live and play. If we effectively embrace this industry shift, we could experience benefits such as expanded mobility for those with special needs, a decrease in accidents related to texting or drunk driving, reduction in the use of fossil fuels, and additional time for reading or working during a commute. We see today the positive economic impact autonomous mobility has had on metropolitan areas outside of Silicon Valley, such as Pittsburgh, Ann Arbor, Boston, and Austin. The only way we can continue to benefit from this industry is if the companies within this space learn how to see around the corners and identify detrimental unintended consequences (e.g. impact on public safety, infrastructure, legislation, and supply chain). 

The autonomous driving industry can learn from the smartphone challenges in real time, and leadership needs to become proactive in managing risks. When searching for executives to lead disruptive companies where does one begin? The foundation must be a thoughtful approach to talent acquisition.

Waterstone recently partnered with a Fortune 100 automotive company and drove the hiring of their autonomous mobility team. As a new company in an emerging field, our client needed to hire its cross-functional leadership team who would be equipped to evaluate and mitigate risk in a highly-innovative space. 

Through our retained relationship, our client trusted us to act as a consultant, to guide the conversation around the ideal profiles, as well as conduct market research, trend-mapping, competency alignment, targeted candidate marketing, skill-based interview training, and compensation benchmarking. 

With thoughtful guidance from our team, our client shifted from a manufacturing approach to a Silicon Valley mindset. They were not competing with other manufacturers, but those within the tech space. This required access to complex talent ecosystems within emerging technologies, and crafting original marketing strategies to target and attract the most desirable candidates.

While smartphone executives may not have been able to predict the true impact of their products, they very well may know enough now to prevent potential threats within the world of autonomous mobility. The odds are good that leaders who have had recent experience with “playing the tape forward” are invaluable regardless of industry. It is also often the case that founders are not the best ones to see around these corners, and they need to surround themselves with those who can. Intimacy, knowledge and trust matter more than purely capitalizing on the next big thing. This is a tremendous opportunity and inflection point for an emerging industry to do things differently.


To learn more about the autonomous mobility movement in Chicago, check out the Illinois Autonomous Vehicles Association at