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Lessons for business from Formula One

City’s Cass Business School hosts intriguing debate with leading analysts

Formula One (F1) attracts fanatic followers. Its drivers are celebrities and it made Ferrari a household name.

Behind the glamour, the sport is estimated to be worth annually over $4billion and it continues to grow.

To explore the F1 phenomenon and to see what lessons can be learned from it, Cass Business School invited leading industry analysts for a panel discussion 'Competing in turbulent environments: lessons from F1.'

A packed auditorium enjoyed insights from panellists:

  • James Allen - BBC Radio 5 F1 commentator and Financial Times F1 correspondent
  • Gary Anderson - former BBC F1 technical analyst, now Autosport journalist
  • Nick Fry - former CEO Mercedes Grand Prix (F1)null
  • Dr Amanda Goodall - Senior Lecturer in Management, Cass Business School
  • Mark Jenkins - Professor of Business Strategy, Cranfield School of Management
  • Joe Saward - F1 journalist and blogger
  • Dr Paolo Aversa - Marie Curie Fellow of Strategy, Cass Business School, Event chair

The group highlighted the following lessons for business:

  • Clear objectives: in F1 this is easy - win races. Businesses need to ensure they keep firmly focused on what they are setting out to achieve
  • Total clarity of purpose. Knowing where every penny is spent helps achieve business objectives.
  • Change management: F1 teams are some of the most agile business units in operation. They are constantly looking for ways to develop and become better at what they do
  • Speed of reaction: if a team doesn't know how to do something, or something is wrong, they find out how to do it or change it - often in the two weeks in between races
  • Get the best people. Understanding data, high investments and strategy alone are not sufficient
  • Choose the best leaders with the right experience. Research demonstrates the best leaders have a deep knowledge of the core business. In F1, team principles who were previously drivers had a 16% higher chance of their team winning or scoring a podium place
  • Money helps teams to win, but often does not make the success durable. To make the success sustainable, constant incremental improvements help more than occasional big money injections
  • Diversify the business model. For example, F1 technology has been adapted to stream data from ambulances to hospitals so doctors can begin a diagnosis whilst a patient is still en route.

The panellists sparked a lively twitter debate, the highlights of which can be found on Storify.

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