Olympic Secret to
Growing Your Business
by 37x this Year
The science behind incremental gains and what you could do to achieve extraordinary success by focusing on them.
Here’s how British Cycling did it. They were skimming the bottom after almost a hundred years of non-performance. And recently, in just a tenth of that time, they went from zero wins, to setting nine Olympic records and seven world records.
What’s the secret behind their awesome performance at the London Olympics? What led to this epic transformation? James Clear recounts the story in his book Atomic Habits. Pick it up; it’s a great read.
Sir Dave Brailsford, British Cycling’s performance director believed in the magic of small improvements. And he applied that belief to everything that British Cycling did.
Small details that we probably don’t think twice about – he took them; and changed them for the better.
For example, paint. Dave painted the inside of the team truck white. It helped spot dust that messed with finely tuned bikes. He rubbed bike tires with alcohol to improve their grip. He tested muscle gels to find one that helped faster recovery.
These things by themselves don’t mean much. But put together hundreds of small improvements like these – and voila! You hit jackpot.
Or in this case, world records.
Can you replicate what Dave Brailsford did for British Cycling in your life and your business? Of course yes! All it needs is the 1% better approach.
The 1% Better Approach
The small negligible improvements Dave made are called Marginal Gains. Aggregation of Marginal Gains can help you achieve epic results. Just improving by 1% per day for a year, you end up 37 times better off than you were when you started.
Here is how the math works:
Improving by 1% every day for one year: (1.01) 365 = 37.78
Jokes aside, some of the most innovative companies in the world use the marginal gains approach.
Take Google, they run over 12,000 data driven experiments each year to spot opportunities for improvement. One such experiment led them to change the color of the Google toolbar to a lighter blue.
Just that ONE thing increased click-throughs and boosted revenue.
Similarly a hospital in the UK was struggling to contain medical errors. They took the marginal gains approach: Added checklists in the OT. Altered drug labeling for easier identification. Systematically improved hygiene. Added text to color coded wristbands. And implemented hundreds of small changes like these.
The impact was tremendous. It reduced the hospital’s liability claims by 74 per cent.
And what’s even better – it saved lives.
You Don’t Have to Move Mountains
We are led to believe that every great story has one defining moment. I say - bulls**t.
You don’t reach your goal in one jump – it takes every little step to help you get there.
Let’s say you improve every step by 1% covering that tiny bit of extra distance with each step. Before you know it you’ll reach your goal ~37x faster. And you’d have achieved this with barely noticeable effort.
With Marginal Gains you aren’t moving mountains. You are just making little tweaks to accelerate your progress towards your goals.
On the other hand, if you make your steps just a little bit smaller every day, you may likely never reach your goal.
Yes, there is negative compounding too! Doing something incrementally worse everyday for a year will get you down to almost zero.
Getting worse by 1% every day for one year: (0.99) 365 = 00.03
A System to Hack Your Goals
Now we know what marginal gains are. We know the concept has been used to achieve amazing wins. So how do we put it to practice?
By building a system that works – one, that brings you closer to your goals.
What’s the difference between systems and goals?
It’s a distinction Scott Adams of the famed Dilbert comic made – “Goals are about the results you want to achieve. Systems are about the processes that lead to those results”.
So let’s put the system in place. Success depends on three things:
1. The understanding of your purpose – Establish what you want to improve. What is the overall goal?Better productivity? Improved Efficiency? Profitability?
2. A plan to go from where you are to where you want to be – Identify ALL factors that impact your goal. Is it your business process? Is it the work culture? Is it the air conditioning?
List down even the minutest detail. And then brainstorm on how it can be improved. Make a time bound plan to implement these improvements. Stick to it!
3. The mindset to succeed – Build the right mindset to get the most out of the marginal gains concept. Question things. Accept change. Create contagious enthusiasm for the team to work together and identify growth areas.
For this system to work, you need an approach that keeps you focused. I’d recommend the Kaizen way.
Kaizen is the Sino-Japanese word for improvement. The manufacturing industry has been using it for decades to gain big from small, continuous improvements.
To practice Kaizen you need to:
- 4Don’t wait for perfection – Choose iterative, adaptive change. Even if it’s just 1% better, do it. If you make a mistake, fix it.
- 5Look for solutions as you find problems – Do parallel processing. Don’t wait to solve everything in one go.
- 6Create an environment of empowerment – Encourage people to share ideas and feedback. Get them involved in the outcome.
- 7Don’t accept the obvious – Fixing the surface issue is only a temporary solution. If you find a problem, use the , ‘5 Why’ method to get to the root cause and fix that.
- 8Crowdsource opinions – Different people have different perspectives. Get new eyes to look at your issues. Use their insights to make an informed decision.
- 9Tap in to creativity to find low-cost, small improvements – Don’t go on a spending spree from the get go. Look for creative solutions that offer more bang for your buck.
- 10Never stop improving – Remember, there is ALWAYS scope for improvement. Keep reviewing your approach and processes frequently. Even when you think they are top-notch.
Every year we select a few entrepreneurs to work with us to grow their companies while reducing the number of hours they invest working “in” the business. If this year if your year, if this is the year you will love to see extraordinary success for you business, we would be curious to see if we could help.