Just 1% change can really make a difference

Just 1% change can really make a difference

In 2010, Dave Brailsford was handed a difficult job. He was required to enhance the performance of Team Sky, a British cycling team, with the objective of winning Britain’s first ever Tour de France title. Taking this challenge to task, David Brailsford went ahead and developed a strategy, which he called the aggregation of marginal gains.

What is the aggregation of marginal gains?
He explained that the aggregation of marginal margins was the 1% margin of improvement that exists in everything that you do. His belief was that if the cycling team improved an area related to their performance even by as much as 1%, then the small changes and improvements would add up to something really worthwhile and remarkable. So the team went about making changes and improvements; they started by optimizing their diets, their weekly training regimens and the ergonomics of the bike designs.

Next, Team Sky started making small 1% improvements in other areas, which were often overlooked by competing teams. The team made seemingly small improvements such as selecting the best pillows for better sleep quality (which they would carry with them, even to hotels); they started testing the best gels to use for massages, and even taught cyclists on the best ways to wash their hands so that they could get sick less often.

Brailsford believed firmly that this technique of making 1% improvements would place Team Sky in a position to win the Tour de France in five years. In 2012, Brailsford’s vision was realized when Team Sky rider Sir Bradley Wiggins became the first British cyclist to win the Tour de France. That very year, Brailsford’s team also dominated at the 2012 Olympic Games and demolished the competition by winning 70 % of the gold medals.

The next year in 2o13, Team Sky won the title of Tour de France once more, this time with a different cyclist (Chris Froome) and have continued to do so, sustaining success to this day. The victories have so far been referred to as the most successful feats in Britain’s modern cycling history.

So, what can we learn from 1% gain?
Every decision that we make, small or big, ultimately affects our habits, as well as who we are now and who we hope to be in the future. It is easy to convince ourselves that the only changes that really matter are the large noticeable ones; the almost unachievable ones. This attitude can often delay our journey of change because it all feels just too much.

But small changes count for something too. Whether you are struggling to lose weight, saving to travel the world or start a new business, try not to put so much pressure on yourself for major change quickly. How about we apply the 1% marginal gain approach today - pick one thing. Just one thing that will move you towards your goal and by improving just 1% each and every day, before long you will notice real and meaningful progress towards your goal and for the long run.

Sally is the Founder of LifeBuddy. She is an Organisational Development consultant and is a Practitioner with the Association for Business Psychology.