Moments of Brilliance vs Good Consistent Habits

I would like to take you 6 years back to 2010, where no British rider has ever won the Tour de France since its beginning in 1903. Dave Brailsford was the new general manager and performance director for Team Sky (Great Britain’s professional cycling team), and he got the unenviable task to change this.

His approach was very simple.

Believed in a concept that he referred to as the “aggregation of marginal gains” and explained it as “the 1 % margin for improvement in everything you do.” His belief was that if you improved every area related to cycling by just 1%, then those small gains would add up to remarkable improvement.

They started by optimizing the things you might expect: the nutrition of the riders, their weekly training program, the ergonomics of the bike seat and the weight of the tires. Brailsford and his team didn’t stop there. They searched for 1 % improvements in tiny areas that were overlooked by almost everyone else: discovering the pillow that offered the best sleep and taking it with them to hotels, testing for the most effective type of massage gel, teaching riders the best way to wash their hands to avoid infection. They searched for 1% improvements 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. He was wrong. They won it in two years.

In 2012, Team Sky rider Sir Bradley Wiggins became the first British cyclist to win the Tour de France. That same year, Brailsford coached the British cycling team at the 2012 Olympic Games and dominated the competition by winning 70% of the gold medals available. In 2013, Team Sky repeated their feat by winning the Tour de France again, this time with rider Chris Froome. Chris Froome won the TDF again in 2015 and 2016.

What can we learn from Brailsford’s approach?

It’s so easy to overestimate the importance of a moment of brilliance and to underestimate the value of small “seemingly insignificant” good habits.

Very true for marketing in our businesses: we realise too late that we didn’t market as we should have, and then we start marketing. Without a strategy, without measuring it, a quick campaign or newsletter – until we get busy again, and fall into the same habit of surviving and working “in” the business.

If you look at the graph – in the beginning, there is basically no difference between making a choice that is 1 % better or 1 % worse.

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.


The Bottom Line:

Success is a few simple disciplines, practiced every day; while failure is simply a few errors in judgment, repeated every day.
—Jim Rohn

You probably won’t find yourself in the Tour de France anytime soon, but the concept of “aggregation of marginal gains” can be useful all the same.

In your own business:

  1. Pick one thing you think will make a big difference in your results
  2. Be clear on what you want to achieve and how
  3. Follow through – take small steps, daily
  4. Get ready for success!