5 Myths About Henry Ford

Went to See a Man About a Horse
Henry Ford (right) had a longstanding friendship and working relationship with Thomas Edison (left). (Courtesy of the Ford Motor Company)

Henry Ford allegedly said, "If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses." It's one of the most famous quotes attributed to him. However, there's little, if any, evidence that he ever actually made this statement [source: Vlaskovits]. In a sense, it doesn't really matter — in the grand scheme of Henry Ford, this is a pretty innocuous statement. Self-righteous, but harmless. And anyway, it's supposed to explain why he built the Model T the way he did, even though his methods were unheard-of at the time. Whether he said the quote or not, he still built the Model T and changed history. So why does it matter, then? Well, Henry Ford and Ford Motor Company are still case studies for innovators everywhere. And that quote stands as a dividing line between two schools of thought. The first believes that innovation should be in light of feedback from consumers and market research. The other side thinks that inspiration shouldn't be held back by trivial details such as feedback from consumers.

As we'll discuss in the coming pages, Henry Ford started out on one path and then got lost going down the other, regardless of what he did or did not say.