The 1% Solution

Tom Frisby and I had been talking about the power of incremental improvement, and he shared this incredible story with me.

In 2010, David Brailsford was the coach of the British cycling team. At that point, no British cycling team had ever won anything, ever.

Brailsford had a simple idea to turn the fortunes of the team around, which was to improve everything by 1%. He referred to this strategy as “the aggregation of marginal gains.” He explained it as “the one percent margin for improvement in everything you do.” His belief was that if you improved every area related to cycling by just 1 percent, then those small gains would add up to remarkable improvement.

They started on the obvious and easy stuff – the nutrition of the riders, the weekly training program, the ergonomics of the bike seat, the weight and suppleness of the tires.

Fair enough.

Then they dug down deeper … How about a one percent better pillow that resulted in 1% better sleep? What if they then brought these pillows to the hotels? How about a 1% improvement on the massage gel the trainers used? What about hand washing? What if they taught the riders a better way to wash their hands to avoid infections and colds?

They searched for 1% solutions everywhere.

Brailsford believed that if they could successfully execute this strategy, then Team Sky would be in a position to win the Tour de France in five years time. They won it in two.

In 2012, Team Sky rider Sir Bradley Wiggins became the first British cyclist to win the Tour de France. That same year, the British cycling team won 70% of the gold medals in cycling at the 2012 Olympic games. In 2013, Team Sky won the Tour de France again.

The question is, what can you learn and apply from Brailsford’s marginal gains approach?

What does a 1% better onboarding process look like?
What does a 1% better review meeting look like?
What does a 1% better staff meeting look like?
What does a 1% client retention rate look like?
What does a 1% better referral process look like?

How much more money do you have after 10 years of saving 1% more per month?

Most of us talk about success (and life in general) as an event. We might tell people that we lost 20 pounds or built a successful practice or saved a thousand dollars or met our spouse at an event. But this isn’t accurate. Most significant achievements are not single things, but rather they are the sum of all the right choices we made to do things 1% better.

Or worse, but let’s stay positive. When you add up all these little 1% improvements, you see a major improvement.

So, where are the possibilities for 1% improvements in your life? Everywhere. A better question is, where will you start?

Nice to have you along for the ride. Have a 1% sweeter Wednesday.


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