Audi was in desperate need to win the 2006
edition of the 24 hours of Le Mans race. The competition is not only one of the most prestigious
car races in the world — its outcome can make or break a carmaker’s reputation.
However, Audi was in real trouble: its car was not fast enough.
Until one question changed everything. The Audi team went from not having the fastest
car to winning the 24-hours Le Mans race three years in a row.
If you were to design a race car, you’d probably want to build the fastest one possible,
right? Interestingly enough, Audi took a different
approach. One that brought to life the power of accepting constraints. And turned them
into a superpower, not a limitation. Interesting questions trigger thought-provoking
conversations — that’s what Audi did by reframing its challenge.
“How could we win Le Mans if our car could go no faster than anyone else’s?” — Audi’s
chief engineer asked. The chief engineer’s question not only removed
the excuse— not having the fastest car should not stop them from winning. He also reframed
the challenge into a more interesting one. Rather than worrying about the speed of the
car, Audi’s team had to discover other ways to win the race.
The 24 hours of Le Mans is one of the most challenging races. Teams have to deal with
physical and mental fatigue while balancing demanding speeds with keeping their car running
for a full day. The design team came up with a simple yet
powerful solution: a fuel-efficient car. Audi turned conventional wisdom upside down by
using a diesel engine for the first time. By reducing the number of pit stops, the racing
team saved significant time — they could never make up that time by increasing engine
power. The engineering team approached Le Mans as
an endurance competition —one closer to a marathon than a sprint.
This new perspective helped Audi win Le Mans three years in a row. Winning is not just about what you do during
the race. Everything that you do leading to that day matters. That mentality helped Audi
turn its constraints into creative fuel. Most people see their constraints as limiting.
When their resources are scarce, they feel limited.
However, not being the ‘fastest car’ shouldn’t prevent you from winning.
Everyone has limitations. Winning is not about having all the resources; it’s about outsmarting
your competition. Don’t let your constraints define you. That’s
the purpose of this one question — turn your constraints into a superpower.
“How can you win if ‘your car’ is not faster than everyone else’s?”
Apply this mentality to solve both personal and work challenges.
How can you win if you are NOT… … the smartest guy in the room?
… the one with the strongest network? … the most well-known expert?
The point is: don’t get stuck in the “I can’t win” mode just because of your constraints.
When you focus on what you lack, you become a victim.
“Why is this happening to me?” — You might ask yourself. You feel life is unfair
and let one constraint define your future. And, eventually, you give up.
You can opt to fight back. However, this is an endless battle. Being obsessed with defeating
your constraints takes your focus away. Instead of fighting your limitations, ask
more interesting questions. Like Audi’s chief engineer did.
Take ownership — accept your limitations rather than wasting your time fighting reality.
Your purpose is not to defeat your constraints but to achieve your goals. Ask yourself: “How
can I win the race even if I’m not the fastest?” Focus on turning a constraint into a superpower.
Outsmart others by reframing how you will win the race.
Moving from being a victim to hero is not easy. It requires self-awareness; to stop
comparing to others and challenge what you can do differently.
When you can’t win within normal conditions, rewrite the rules. Focus on the opportunity, not on your limitations.
When you try to get more of what you lack— resources, support, budget, time, etc. — you
get stuck in trying to solve the wrong problem. Reframing the problem will help you uncover
a more interesting one to solve. Audi’s chief engineer turned a constraint
(speed) into a superpower (energy efficiency). He reframed the problem from “we are not
faster than others” to “how can we win without being the fastest.”
Reframing the challenge is half of the solution. When you stop thinking about your weaknesses,
you stop comparing to others. This question will help you reframe a constraint
and turn it into a challenge: “How might I achieve (a goal) even though I lack (a limitation)?”
Reframe your challenge into a more interesting one.
Become the hero of your own narrative. Focus your creativity on the right problem. Your
goal is not to build the fastest car; your goal is to win the race.
Turn your limitations in your favor rather than surrendering to them.