McLaren has today announced an interesting partnership with GlaxoSmithKline, one of the world’s leading phamaceuticals companies.
The deal is all about McLaren applying know how and technology from years of perfecting the racing game to a corporate environment, such as GSK’s business.
It’s something I’ve suggested for some time that F1 could usefully do for the outside world. The sport is all about innovating, adapting, overcoming, planning, reacting quickly, making strategic decisions and building a stable base.
Pat Symonds once said that the attitude of the top engineers in F1 should be, “I don’t know how to do that, but I’ll find out and I’ll do it by next weekend.”
I wrote a piece in the Financial Times in 2007 based on the interview with Symonds, arguing that F1 should export its skills to the business world.
“As an industry what we are good at is change management, “Symonds said. “Everything changes very rapidly, the specification of the car changes weekly, our goal posts move more quickly than financial markets and you have to be good at managing change. That is something we can teach business people.“
Such is the relentless progress in the sport, as a team comes up with an innovation like a blown diffuser or and F Duct wing and everyone else learns the science behind it and reproduces their own version.
So McLaren has done a deal with GSK which will perform some pretty cool functions for the company, helping them plan better and model different scenarios.
For example they will create a replica of their operations unit at the factory, which all teams have and which oversees all strategy planning, simulation after practice sessions and so on during race weekends. The will put this in the GSK London HQ and it will “drive faster decision-making around variables such as wholesaler stocking, inventory management, pricing, responding to retailer requests, competitor activity, and market and customer needs.”
Honda used to send its engineers into F1 for a few years to train them in thinking outside the box and getting things done quickly and they would then pull them back into making road cars.
This McLaren/GSK deal reflects that with one of the main objectives being, “The inspiration and development of GSK’s managers, and the preparation of its managers to be able to make better and more informed business choices while remaining agile and adaptable to ever-changing circumstances.”
The deal runs for an initial period of five years, to 2016. Although it’s not in their statement today, I understand that one of GSK’s brands may well appear on the car, but this is only a small part of the deal. To some of you this story may seem like marketing gobbledygook, but I think it’s worth considering more deeply; it’s great that the unique skills F1 people develop from racing hard against each other, can be applied to a wider purpose.
McLaren have a track record of repurposing technology for other uses, such as the recent Air Traffic Control initiative from its Applied Technologies division. But to repurpose skills is a great idea and more F1 teams should do it.