What can a design team learn from the Ferrari F1 team?

I’m a designer and I’m also a fan of F1. This season has seen the revival of Vettel and Ferrari with both winning two of the four opening races. This is a stark contrast from last season when Ferrari went an entire season without registering a single win. So, what is their secret and how can we as designers and teams of designers learn from their rapid progress and current success?

Ease your own pressure.

At the beginning of last year Vettel announced his intentions of winning more races than the two set by Arrivabene, claiming “we’re not here to finish second”. These expectations produced excitement amongst fans but also created pressure from the outset, pressure that increased the more Ferrari’s winless season unfolded. As time passed, inquests into the team grew and team relations appeared fractured. Vettel became a subdued figure, rumours grew of Raikkonen’s future and Arrivabene appeared a dead man walking.

Remove the hierarchy pyramid.

The team boss at Ferrari is Sergio Marchionne. Sergio carries the image of a hard businessman with colourful language. In 2016, he began a full investigation into Ferrari’s design factory to learn why they could not compete with Mercedes. After interviewing many staff, he decided the design team needed to be re-designed and restructured to be more flexible. His intention was to reduce the top-down hierarchy structure by freeing up the more creative minds ensuring all ideas were discussed making the entire group more open to suggestions. This would give the team a greater sense of ownership and responsibility and at the same time prevent some people from keeping their head down to avoid responsibility for failure. The result? James Allison, now former technical director, left his role and the restructure gave opportunity for all designers to put forward their suggestions. Every idea was welcome and discussed. Numerous features and innovations have been introduced on the new 2017 charger, propelling the team to two wins out of four.

Praise each other, always.

During the 2015–2016 campaign, amidst all frustrations and disappointment, Ferrari continued to praise each other’s efforts. Vettel publically acknowledged the engineers were doing their upmost to improve the car and Arrivabene continued to praise Vettel’s efforts even though each persona’s may have suggested otherwise. These moments of appreciation are what kept the team together through the most difficult of periods and ensured not all confidence in each other was lost.

Never give up.

Unfortunately for Ferrari their previous season in F1 is on the record books for being one of their worst in the history of the sport. Regardless of this they continued to work hard behind the scenes. They recognised the need for change, they were bold and took risks, changing their design team structure and more importantly they never gave up. They continued to believe that they would be once more a driving force in F1 and defy most people’s expectations of not only closing the gap on Mercedes but creating one themselves.

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UI & UX Designer. Passionate about design, health & fitness and wellbeing.

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