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Formula One offers food for thought

Last month, I had the privilege of speaking to the London Refrigeration Society about innovation.

For those who might not know its history, the LRS is based on the simple principle of gathering experienced engineers together regularly to chat about what’s going on in the industry.

A few such groups gather around the country, but not nearly as many as there used to be. This is a shame because you can see how the simple act of engineers from different companies and disciplines meeting for a pint and a chat can be of great value, especially for those at the sharpest of sharp ends, where working life is often solitary. 

If you love your rac technology and techniques, or equally if you feel at all out on your own amid the changing times, I would heartily recommend them.

These groups display the spirit of what we are trying to do with our Question Times, bringing people together to build something useful from the shared experience (and see p15 and 47 for the details.) 

The combined experience in the room was impressive, pushing well past the 100-years’-worth. It was also chastening to hear that none of the dozen or so present works in retail. I know the supermarkets dominate the lives of many in the industry, but the perspective of all those ‘non-supermarket’ is something both RAC and Cooling Awards is actively working to focus on more. 

As I was collecting my thoughts, a press release dropped into my inbox from the Cass Business School. It was about its research into F1 cars. Nothing to do with refrigeration you might think, but wait…  The headline was tantalising: “Too much technology harms performance.” 

The Cass researchers had discovered that over the past 30 years, the great slew of innovations that automotive engineers had come up with had made less difference to the business of winning the races than adapting the technology they had. 

Can you see a connection with the cooling industry? Think about it when you see some of the quotes. “Exploring new solutions can push the already high levels of complexity beyond the team’s expertise, thus reducing the effectiveness and reliability of the technological innovation.”

Here is another: “Managers often display a ‘bias towards action’ and they overwhelmingly believe in an ever increasing positive relationship between innovation and performance gains.”

It goes onto explain that when bringing in new ideas, it is essential to bring the teams on board too. 

But the researchers’ conclusion is perhaps the most interesting: “A focus on improving existing technology, rather than trying to invent the next big thing is shown to yield more success.”

With so much good innovation coming into our industry perhaps Cass’s subheading ‘fast but not too fast’ is one we should think carefully about. Not to avoid innovation, but to make sure it is well-integrated with the technology and techniques already in existence. Food for thought? 

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