Saturday, July 9, 2022


 Till early 2000s, Britain had a pretty ordinary performance (by its own standards) in Cycling events at Olympics. It had just won 1 Gold medal in 76 years. But the world witnessed a massive transformation by the 2008 Olympics where Britain won 7 Gold medals on offer in track cycling and then repeated this performance at 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. Dave was a proponent of an approach was called as 'The aggregation of marginal gains'. Simply put, it was a philosophy of searching for a tiny margin of improvement in everything you do. 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.

A few examples (among many) where Dave applied this principle:
- 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.
- To gradually improve athlete's sleep cycles/postures, they brought our own mattresses and pillows.
- They redesigned the bike seats to make them more comfortable and rubbed alcohol on the tires for a better grip. 
- They tested different types of massage gels to see which one led to the fastest muscle recovery. 

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.

This is an idea that the author so beautifully expresses in his best seller (and potentially life changing) book- "The Atomic Habits". Have included my sketchnote summary of the book.

As James Clear sums it up wonderfully- "In the beginning, there is basically no difference between making a choice that is 1 percent better or 1 percent worse. (In other words, it won't impact you very much today.) But as time goes on, these small improvements or declines compound and you suddenly find a very big gap between people who make slightly better decisions on a daily basis and those who don't. This is why small choices don't make much of a difference at the time, but add up over the long-term.

What are the work areas where you believe the philosophy of 'aggregation of marginal gains' can have an impact ?

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