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Media Intelligence – A Team Sport
September 10, 2014

One of my passions is Formula1 motor racing. Some people love the sport and others think it’s only about a car being driven round and round a circuit and therefore “boring”.

Contrary to some opinions it is in fact very much a team sport. The two drivers are supported by literally hundreds of technicians, engineers, designers and other team personnel and without all of those people it would be impossible for a driver to even start, let alone win a race.

Some teams are really successful for years whilst others struggle to even finish a race.  Williams Grand Prix racing were once the top team having won the Drivers’ Championship 7 times and the Constructors’ Championship 9 times between 1980 and 1997 with drivers such as Nigel Mansell, Alain Prost and Damon Hill. Since then, nothing of any significance, until 2014.

Former Ferrari driver Felipe Massa joined the Williams team for the 2014 season.  Massa is very experienced having been team mate to Michael Schumacher from 2006 until 2010 and then with Fernando Alonso for the 2011 to 2013 seasons.

Felipe’s race engineer at Ferrari, the key person who makes sure everything is right with a driver’s race car, was Englishman Rob Smedley. When Felipe moved to Williams for the 2014 season, it was no surprise that Smedley followed him a few weeks later.

Smedley’s new role at Williams is as head of vehicle performance (i.e. ensuring both the race cars work as they are meant to).  In the first few races of the season there were a number of disappointments for the team.  A botched pit stop and some unfortunate accidents meant that the team did not achieve the results it perhaps deserved.

However, Smedley is applying changes to enable the team to deliver the best possible results, including the introduction of a ‘no blame’ culture. Individuals can and will make mistakes, but Smedley’s doctrine is that no matter what happened, the ‘why it happened’ should first be examined carefully.  Then, the processes and procedures are put in place to stop it happening again, rather than blaming the individual or department responsible.

The difference? Following the Italian Grand Prix Williams are currently 3rd in the Constructors’ Championship (rather than finishing 9th in 2013), having overhauled Ferrari and now setting their sites on the previously all-conquering Red Bull team for 2nd place before the end of the season. No blame, much gain!

There are many examples of how teamwork impacts on results and throughout my career I have witnessed and been part of both effective and dysfunctional teams.  Helping our clients turn media data into business intelligence requires more than just a good system and decent analysts. Only through continuous collaboration with our clients can we expect to develop a collective understanding of what matters most and how it has or might impact on the business.

Much like a Formula1 race car, without an effective team, intelligent media monitoring doesn’t stand a chance.

Giles Wadsworth