What the F1 Can Teach Us about Driving Growth in Emerging Markets
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What the F1 Can Teach Us about Driving Growth in Emerging Markets

This article is written by Dr. Alison Eyring

When examining racing performance in F1, what matters most, the driver or the machine? This is the question that kicked off a great dialogue with top-level executives from leading companies such as BHP Billiton, InterContinental Hotels Group, Marina Bay Sands, Philips, Johnson Controls, Citibank and the Dubai Multi-Commodities Centre at the launch of our CEO Roundtable on Driving Growth in Emerging Markets. Following are a few take aways from the conversation to help you have greater impact as a growth leader.

A growth leader needs and creates capacity for growth. Research shows that a new CEO can impact company performance by 30%. In F1, the driver is a critical conduit for making sense of the car's performance. The driver not only "drives" the car but also provides vital feedback and insights into the car's performance to the designers and support team who use this to enhance the capacity of the car. Top-level leaders of a company or business unit serve the same purpose. Growth leaders help their organisation constantly focus on and learn from what's happening outside-and how their organisation is performing in this context. One leader in the group had spent the last year putting in place structures and processes to drive external insights and respond to these throughout his business. Good intentions and pithy statements are not enough.

Treat local insights as a precious asset. Each F1 circuit is different and presents new stresses and challenges to both driver and machine. Adaptation must be appropriate for each type of race and the changing conditions such as rain and temperature. The competitive environment of one emerging market varies considerably to another. Growth leaders must drive constant dialogue with customers and local partners to ensure their organisation is relevant to these evolving conditions. More importantly, they drive the push to see the world from the point of view of the customer and partner-not their firm. This does NOT mean they "go native." Instead, they build capacity to interpret events and actions with multiple lenses. In turn, this creates greater flexibility and the ability to adapt more readily. In our Roundtable, many of the leaders spoke of their practice of spending time with customers. They find the right balance of influencing the others' perspectives of their firm and learning to see the world as their customers see it. One leader spoke of driving cross-functional groups to share more external insights across functional lines-not just up and down functional or business unit silos. Adaptability and flexibility is a cross-functional capability. It cannot be developed in one part of the organisation in isolation.

Drive more, smaller, faster improvements. The faster an F1 team can learn from the interaction of the car with the external environment and enhance the machine accordingly, the greater the advantage over the other drivers. In emerging markets, growth leaders also must drive faster learning and adaptation. One of the leaders in our group shared that rapid prototyping and earlier tests with customers was helping them learn faster in high-growth markets. A culture stymied by slow decision making or unclear roles and responsibilities to take new idea to market will not enable growth in any market-but will really impede growth in emerging markets. Another leader shared that knowing when to research and when to drive action was crucial.

It's clear that, driver AND machine are BOTH crucial to F1 performance. As we dig deeper into their complex relationship we can generate insights that lead to actions for growth leaders. Perhaps the greatest take away of all is that a growth leader isn't defined by charisma or personality characteristics, but in actions that drive the organisation's capacity to grow.

© 2011 Organisation Solutions Pte Ltd.
About the Author: Dr. Alison Eyring is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Organisation Solutions, a global consultancy specialising in organisational design, development and change solutions worldwide. Alison has 25 years of experience in the field of Organisational Development and her areas of expertise lie in large-scale organisation design and change, leadership development, and the design and management of distributed organisations.

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