Uncommon Partners are the Future

Rick Holman, who leads GM’s global trends network, spoke at the Foresight & Trends conference this week about the potential impact of self-driving cars. Spoiler alert – It’s HUGE! $36 Trillion huge. If cars drive themselves, 3 million people who drive for a living will be out of jobs, including the highway patrol (who are they going to pull over?).

What will people do when they no longer have to sit behind the wheel? Work, nap, apply makeup, shave, watch tv, and whatever else people can think of. So doesn’t that mean self-driving cars in the future will be designed with each of these things in mind?

In his talk, Kyle Nel, executive director of Lowe’s Innovation Labs, raised the idea of working with “uncommon partners.” Those are partners you wouldn’t normally think about working together (i.e.; Lowe’s and NASA). Its perhaps the right time for all brands to think more about collaboration with unlikely partners.

If we apply the idea of uncommon partners to self-driving cars, we could get some really interesting results:

The Estee Lauder mobile beauty center: A hyper-specialized vehicle for allowing women to apply their make-up perfectly and perhaps even allowing men to get a perfect shave – lighted mirrors, a working sink, lots of compartments and drawers, and comfy seating.


The Best Buy mobile entertainment center: For all of your entertainment needs. TV’s, video games, exceptional speakers to keep everyone occupied, and maybe even a beer fridge.

viano vision inside tv

The Steelcase mobile workstation: You’ve never been so productive on your way to work. It’s an optimized workspace to get shit done!


The Hyatt sleep station: The best nap you’ve ever had on a road trip. Custom mattress, down covers, fluffy pillows, aromatherapy, and an espresso machine. You’ll have a great sleep and wake up to fresh latte. This is the life!

hyatt bed

The Lululemon gym on wheels: Long commute mean no time for working out in the morning? Not anymore. This mobile gym wouldn’t be complete without an amazing shower and changing station (brought to you by Kohler).


At least a few of these brands will laugh at these concepts, but they shouldn’t. Brands will have fantastic opportunities in the future to make uncommon partnerships to wow and surprise consumers. As Stuart Jenkins at Deckers put it, “don’t be so quick to empower your employees to say ‘No.'”


UPDATE: This was originally posted in 2014, but it’s still applicable to so many companies today. Consider how augmented reality will change the way we interact with the real world and what types of unusual partnerships might result. Or the different types of drones and robots that will exist. Stretch your imagination a bit.


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