Sunday, September 26, 2021


Till early 2000s, Britain had a pretty ordinary performance (by its own standards) in Cycling events at Olympics. By then, it had just won 1 Gold medal in 76 years. But by 2008 Olympics, Britain won 7 Gold medals on offer in track cycling and repeated this performance in 2012 Olympics.

What really changed ?
One, it was leadership. Dave Brailsford was appointed as a head of British cycling in early 200Os.

Second, was an approach that Dave introduced. The approach was called as 'The aggregation of marginal gains'. It came from the idea that if you broke down everything you could think of that goes into riding a bike, and then improved it by 1%, you will get a significant increase when you put them all together.

Two examples (among many) where Dave applied this principle:
1. Hired a surgeon to teach athletes about proper hand-washing so as to avoid illnesses during competition. The team didn't shake any hands during the Olympics.
2. To gradually improve athlete's sleep cycles/postures, they brought our own mattresses and pillows.

The whole idea was to think small, not big, and adopt a philosophy of continuous improvement through the aggregation of marginal gains. More than perfection; focus on progression, and compound the improvements. It allowed team to search for improvements everywhere and they found countless opportunities.

Can you apply the aggregation of marginal gains at work ?
Of course, you can. It takes a bit of a contrarian approach of thinking small, finding micro-opportunities for improvement, and being patient while allowing the improvements to compound. I call this contrarian approach as this approach shuns instant gratification thinking (that's at the root of many problems professional's face today).

How can you learn more ? I have included summary of 2 books in my sketchnote which i found relevant in this regard. Atomic Habits by James Clear and One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way by Robert Maurer

Do share your thoughts in comments. #kaizen #atomichabits #leadership

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