How Change Affects Racing Teams at the Indianapolis 500

This year will be the 98th running of the Indianapolis 500.

The greatest spectacle in racing.

The race is run each May with 33 cars averaging over 185 miles per hour over 500 laps on the 2.5 mile long oval track at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Racing is a sport full of change and change management. Not only must teams keep up with each other as they develop new technology but they must also operate within the rules as the sport’s governing body has outlined for each season. Just as any business enterprise must adapt to a changing market, they must also adapt to working within the rules of governments and regulatory bodies in order to stay ahead of the game. Let us take a close look at the relationship between business and motorsports and see how important adapting to change is. What are some of the relationships between motorsports and business world at large? There are many key areas where racing and business overlap.

Gartner Analyst Doug Laney has written on the subject: “All the excitement of auto racing aside, consider the key underlying components of what racing teams are doing to accelerate the performance of their cars and drivers and how these techniques can and should apply to your albeit relatively mundane business.”

When British/American driver Charlie Kimbal was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes he thought his career might be over. However by changing his approach and teaming up with Novo Nordisk he has been able to not only secure valuable sponsorship but become a symbol for people suffering the effects of diabetes, and help Novo Nordisk change the way they fight against diabetes at large.

Here are a few key ways your business may benefit from the same tricks that race teams do;

Embrace New Drivers

It is natural to be wary rookies. They are the great unknown. Will they win multiple races or never live up to their full potential. You can dispense with them if you like, or you can embrace them and the energy they bring to the team and the series. This is the same in sport as it is in business. The key is balance. If your rookies bring energy and enthusiasm to a task, let them take it on. You may know what is tried and true but there are always better and brighter ways to look at a project. Let them show you what they can do. New ideas aren’t always better ideas, but changes add fuel to the race.

Know how and when to Slow Down

Every Racing driver knows how to use their speed, the best of the best also know when to gently brake, allowing for smooth corners and easy transitions. This is the same for business. It’s not always about going as fast as you can, but moving quickly and as strategically as you can, using breaks to build your momentum. Slow down to evaluate your progress. Slow down to make sure everyone is on board with your vision and slow down to listen to those who you need imperative feedback from. Remember good brakes mean you’re able to go faster, but more importantly they let you handle the pace.

Be Prepared for Rule Changes

One of the most difficult things for long standing businesses and for long standing sports is adapting well to changes. Most rule changes do not come about overnight, even though we feel their impact quickly and suddenly. This means that there is a good amount of time to prepare yourselves and your employees for changes, so do so. Change is inevitable so implement a strong change management protocol to adapt and recover. Most important of all is to be prepared. This year revisions have been made to the Indy rulebook. These revisions include changes to point structures and the races at large.

Anything can happen on the on the track as in life, and as a rule the same applies to both business and racing. A race lost means customers lost, and a serious disconnect between customers and your business. If your product is ineffective or you don’t communicate with your team, your customers will feel the impact. Communicate, and prepare your employees. Oftentimes business leaders make the mistake of believing that everyone is prepared or up to date on plans and do not effectively communicate. Not only is a lack of communication disadvantageous in business and racing it can be downright dangerous, and in some extreme situations fatal.

Doug Laney of Gartner ends by adding: “Racing teams are able to invest in advanced analytics because millions of dollars and euros are on the line from hundreds of sponsors.  Hopefully your own big data project sponsors appreciate that big money is on the line for your business as well. Winning the race in your industry now probably depends on it.

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Christopher Smith
Chris is the Lead Author & Editor of Change Blog. Chris established the Change blog to create a source for news and discussion about some of the issues, challenges, news, and ideas relating to Change Management.
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