Who knows what the world will look like in 10 or 20 years? What about next year? One woman is at the head of these questions for the Ford Motor Company. Sheryl Connelly may work for Ford, but her job has very little to do with cars. Instead, as the manager of global consumer trends and futuring, Connelly examines how consumer behavior impacts company strategy.
"Henry Ford once said, 'If I had asked my customers what they wanted they would have said faster horses.' That dilemma still exists," Connelly said on "CBS This Morning."
She's been called "the car clairvoyant," a "soothsayer," and a "walking TED Talk." Last year, Fast Company named her one of their most creative people in business.
Although consumers may not even realize what they'll want in the future, Connelly's job is to make the call. She and her team have developed a list of 10 trends that they think are going to shape car buying habits for 2015.
One key area of focus for Connelly is what Ford calls, "elusive health." This idea refers to the consumers' need for clearer guidance to act on the problem of an increasingly unhealthy global population, a cause they say has been muddled by a decentralized effort.
"We have to understand the nature of why change is happening. So you have the quality of food, in terms of nutrition," she said. "Even emerging markets, they're so poor, and you have an influx of technology that's leading to a more sedentary lifestyle."
One way they've begun to develop these ideas correlates to the design and ergonomics of their cars.
"We have things like a heart monitor chair in development that can help test the quality of your health when you're in your vehicle," she said.
While some Americans may becoming sicker, others are living longer -- another factor Ford has to consider.
"The aging population is probably the single most important challenge that the world will face, both from a social and economic standpoint," Connelly said.
She pointed out that some scientists believe the first person to live to be 150 years old has already been born.
"So if you're a car company, you have to ask yourself, 'If people are going to surrender their car keys at 83, thinking they'll live to be 85, what will happen if they think they're going to live to be 105?" she said. "So our challenge is to enable the freedom, the autonomy and independence that comes from owning and operating your own vehicle."
Connelly analyzes a variety of information, such as recent Pew statistics showing 52 percent of teens use social media or YouTube for their research and Business Insider's data showing 64 percent of "Gen Z-ers" are considering pursuing an advanced degree -- compared to 71 percent of millennials.
"It's really about trying to understand consumer, society, and once you start to dig deep into trends, you start to recognize that politics, economics, environment, technology -- they all are intertwined together, so that when you start pulling on one string, the entire fabric changes," Connelly said.