by Mark Chillingworth

Jenson Button and Ross Brawn’s lessons for CIOs

Oct 20, 2009

I headlined the article Tomorrow the world and on Monday morning it became true, he was world champion. Back in June 1994 as a stringer for Autosport magazine I was writing profiles and sports reports of young Britain’s hopeful of becoming Formula One world champions. One who caught my eye with his driving talent and good nature was a certain Jenson Button. Back then he was steely focussed on become what he is today, Formula One world champion. Leaving the motorsport world (one that is basically a business and technology sector, just as I cover today) I watched Button from the sidelines and as his career suffered under the management of Briatore at Benetton, rose again at Honda only for it to dip again I wondered if I had got it wrong.

This year, I have felt a little more confident of my ability to predict sporting outcomes (Spurs for 5th in the table anyone?); as Button has driven masterfully and controlled the championships from day one.

So having spent time with motor racing team managers, F1 drivers and CIOs it is time to pull it all together into the lessons CIOs can take from Jenson Button and Ross Brawn’s team. I hear this a lot from analysts and vendors, the word is of course “innovation”. CIOs are always being demanded upon to be innovative. Well Ross Brawn and his team provide a simple lesson in innovation. Their car was truly brilliant because it was innovative. It was innovative because they didn’t look at the rule book for this year’s cars and see what it said, they looked at what it didn’t say. Of course we don’t all work in worlds literally regulated by a rule book like F1 does, but there are plenty of unwritten rules we can all reinterpret. I for one wish I’d thought of a concept like the Metro paper which broke the rules of free newspapers.

Tenacity and loyalty do pay off, you only have to look at the difficult Honda years to see that Button deserves this championship. And the same can be said of having self belief, as Button did to keep believing he could be champion and Ross Brawnwho went to Honda believing he could turn it around as a company and believed in himself and his team so much he bought the company.

Commitment was also strongly displayed, Button has had many detractors, yet Brawn ignored them and was rewarded with the world title and he was also quick to thank those staff members he had to let go.

This year’s Formula One championship has been a long-overdue classic and a prime example of leadership, innovation, communications, fair play, grit and loyalty.