Did you know that if you improved by 1% every day, you’d be 37 times better by the end of the year? Hearing Allbirds co-founder Tim Brown talk about their culture of being a little bit better every day on a podcast recently got me thinking about the concept of marginal gains – and the disproportionate power of 1%.
In 2003, Sir Dave Brailsford stepped in as the performance director of the British Cycling team, with a solitary gold medal and no Tour de France wins to its name in over 100 years. Rather than rushing to make big changes for instant success, Brailsford believed that if they focused on making small improvements of 1% across every department, over time they would completely transform their performance.
He wasn’t wrong. Between 2007 and 2017, British cyclists won 178 world championships and 66 Olympic or Paralympic gold medals and captured 5 Tour de France victories in what is widely regarded as the most successful run in cycling history.
So, what can we learn from this in a business context?
Brailsford knew that every 1% counted, so the team kept looking for new opportunities to innovate – testing massage gels, hiring surgeons to teach handwashing techniques, selecting pillows and mattresses for optimal sleep. The more areas they audited, the more gains they made. They even painted the team truck white to spot hidden dust that could affect their finely tuned bikes.
The moral of the story is to seek those small wins and watch them compound into something bigger. There are things you can change straight away, and things experts can help you unlock. It could be refining customer interactions, streamlining operations, or optimising your brand messaging.
You can make a start today by auditing your most obvious areas to improve – and when you need professional support, contact us.