In praise of misunderstandings: How they can jumpstart a discussion

How a misunderstanding on a BusinessWeek blog broke new ground on Ford

Don't get me wrong. I don't admire errors and I hate to commit them. But sometimes errors or misunderstandings serve a function in blogs. They start conversations that would never happen if we got everything right.

A few days ago, my colleague Bruce Nussbaum teed off in his blog about Ford. He said the company licenced lots of Toyota technology for its hybrids. This indicated that Toyota was innovating in an important technology, and that Ford was not. Bruce quickly got a response from a very upset Mary Ann Wright, who heads up hybrids at Ford. She explained that Ford merely exchanged patent licenses with Toyota, because the technologies were similar enough, and the companies wanted to avoid any accusations of infringement.

If Bruce had heard that explanation in the beginning, he probably wouldn't have written the item. But because he did, we get a look into the complex relations between Ford and Toyota, we meet a Ford exec, and we learn that Ford clearly is monitoring the blogs--and responding quickly.

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