Saturday, 8 February 2014

Competing in turbulent environments: Lessons from Formula One

Last night I went to the Cass Business School to attend Competing in turbulent environments: Lessons from Formula One.

If you're an F1 geek the event was a big draw with an excellent line up of guests. I would have paid to attend but the fact it was free and they gave us complimentary wine and canap├ęs was a bonus!

The panel included:
Joe Saward - the only F1 journalist I read avidly and someone who I've seen a couple of times before.
James Allen - BBC F1 commentator
Nick Fry - former CEO of Brawn and Mercedes F1 team
Garry Anderson - F1 designer, technical director and BBC pundit
Amada Goodall - Cass lecturer and author of a paper on leadership in F1
Mark Jenkins - academic at Cranfield University who specialises in F1

The evening started with each of the panel giving a three and a half minute (the chair was very precise!) overview on what they thought made F1 on a successful business.

I thought Nick Fry articulated it most clearly by outlining three key criteria: clarity of the objective, getting the right people and then leaving them too it. It could apply to any business.

Nick Fry was all about the process and Gary Anderson was much more about the gut reaction when making key decisions.

Academic Amada Goodall gave a short overview of some research she's done studying F1 team principles over the last forty years and seeing whether former drivers, mechanics, professional businessmen or another category I can't remember make the most successful team principles in terms of points won. Interestingly the drivers came out on top. Without irony it sounds like it would be an interesting read.

It was clear during the evening that there were many levels of business during F1. The teams are one level and the general impression was that the teams were run well. In many ways they are just like any other business, but they like to think they innovate more quickly.

The business is less functional when you look at how the commercial rights are structured, unless you are Bernie Ecclestone or CVC Partners in which case it does very nicely.

There are also areas in where F1 is completely lacking; branding building and social media were two areas drawn out.

Given the title of the evening, and the fact the event was held in a Business School, I think the organisers were probably hoping to explore what F1 could learn from business and vice versa. I'm not sure the evening did that, and it was only in the questions that the panel talked about F1 technologies crossing into the 'real' world.

However, I'm not sure that the audience were there for a the 'academic' side of the night.
Like me, I think most people were there to hear some insightful conversation about F1and the evening delivered that nicely.


  1. I really enjoyed the event, but like you I thought it was light on the business side, especially given that James has a section of his site focused on innovation that often touches on the topic


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