Lessons from Red Bull

I was recently lucky enough to attend a seminar hosted by Red Bull at their factory in Milton Keynes.  The session was on the concept of Community Guarding, but what I didn’t expect to find was that there are lessons to be drawn from how a Formula One racing team is run that can be applied to a town or city centre!

For town centres, we have always understood the imperative of KPIs, that’s both quantitative e.g. footfall, vacancy rates etc. but also qualitative, understanding how people think and feel.

The whole ethos of Red Bull is one of continuous improvement; 700 hundred people work on building two cars to complete 21 races a year.  The most important lesson is that the race is won or lost long before they reach the race track.  The team focus is around performance and reliability, and they get that by continuous measurement and data.

At Red Bull this is an artform, with every aspect of their cars subject to rigorous measurement, with sensors all over the car.  The idea is to be able to fix things before they break!

They’ve taken that into all aspects of the business including the way their buildings are managed.  I bet we have all been in an office where the air con is never “just right”.  It’s either too hot or too cold – especially recently.  They were able to measure and demonstrate that while the building maintained a constant temperature the workers did not.  How you got to work, say wailing or cycling and whether you had time for breakfast had an impact on you.  So, its was not the building that had changed but the people who used it.

Understanding who, how, when and why people use your centre has to be the basis for making informed decisions.  Be in no doubt, the people using your centre have changed. The Red Bull mantra is:

  • Measure
  • Analyse
  • Develop a solution
  • Repeat

It’s easy to racket up activity, but harder to know if you are doing the right things.

For Red Bull, the car on the grid at the start of race one will bear no comparison with the one that finishes the final race.  They might look similar but every component will have been refined and changed (except the driver).

You start this process, in a town centre, by understand the people, whether workers, residents or visitors.  Because adapting to that changing behaviour will make all the difference as we try to remain not just competitive but also relevant.

In my days as a retailer, I was taught, “Don’t try and do one thing 100% better.  Do 100 things 1% better”.

The trick is knowing what to do and what to do first.  You will only get those insights by finding ways to “measure, analyse, develop”.

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