The Race to Success: People over Process

Why cognitive diversity and team dynamics
are the secrets to drive performance in a
highly competitive environment. 

Toto Wolff is Team Principal and CEO of the Mercedes Formula One (F1) team. Under his leadership, the Mercedes F1 team has clinched seven consecutive Formula One Double World Championships. 

During an interview, Toto Wolff was asked about the secret of success over the last seven years. His answer was simply: the people.

The High Performance Podcast – Toto Wolff Extended Episode

Even if you are not a F1 fan, the sport gives us some important reflections about teamwork, competition and team dynamics. Here are some examples:

  • If you are a F1 driver and your contract is up at the end of a season, you need to impress enough to ‘keep your seat’ . As the Netflix show outlines, you have to Drive to Survive.  
  • There are ten teams, each with two drivers.  Despite being teammates, the two drivers often end up competing intensely against each other, if not hating each other. 

People Over Processes

As I said, you don’t need to understand a lot about the sport to tell that the drivers’  egos sometimes compromise the team dynamic when racing starts. 

Still, Toto Wolff says he apportions 100% of his team’s record-breaking to PEOPLE. 

F1 deals with precision engineering, massive budgets, big investment in technology, huge data input and feedback from analytics, scores of mechanically and electronically qualified geniuses and he says 100% people versus performance. Not 99%, but 100%.

100% people, because people make processes

During the same interview, he said: 

When you speak about the ‘team’ or the ‘company’, you need to speak about all the people that work in the team. Everybody that’s adding their part to the team’s success…when everybody pulls in the same direction, to the best of their abilities with their important character traits and values, this will trigger positive force.
Now this sounds like Obi-Wan Kinobe speaking about force. Meditating doesn’t make the car faster. That is down to data, down to process. Solid engineering and stability. But all of that is made by people, and that is what I find fascinating”

Driving High Performance and Success

With this mentality, Toto Wolff debunked what high performance really means. You drive high performance by enabling people to do their best work, encouraging people to speak their minds and also encouraging cognitive diversity, which means recruiting people who think differently, from different backgrounds. 

It is clear that the impact of cognitive diversity and inclusion is highly positive. According to this article by the renowned research organisation Gartner, 75% of organisations with frontline decision-making teams reflecting a diverse and inclusive culture will exceed their financial targets through 2022. 

To succeed, companies must push for diversity of opinion. They must seek cognitive diversity. It might be easier to lead and fit in “your type of people”, but will it drive high performance?

At TRIPSTank we help you tap into a proven framework, alongside expert coaching, to explore your challenges and opportunities objectively, so that you can find the best way forward for you today.

If you’d like to explore further, have a look at our Step 1 – Prioritise What Matters course.