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AGGREGATION OF MARGINAL GAINS

THOUGHTS

AGGREGATION OF MARGINAL GAINS

Angela Walker

Even now, as I reflect on this summer’s Olympic games, I’m still inebriated with the success of the Great Britain team (65 medals in total, 29 gold, and we loved every single one of them!).  As a Brit, the number of medals and the grace of how the games were run truly make me proud. But as a Tignum coach, I was equally impressed with the level of preparation, sophistication, and passion that was demonstrated.

One clear standout for me was the success of Great Britain cycling.  As a high performance coach myself, I have watched and been impressed by David Brailsford, the Performance Director for British Cycling. Under his leadership Team, GB has dominated both velodrome and road cycling: 14 medals in Beijing, 12 in London, 8 of which were gold and the Tour de France.  So what is his secret?

Speaking to one of the gold medalists from the Beijing games, she told me that when she sat on her bike on the starting line, she knew that every single detail which may affect her performance had been taken care of. This gave her the confidence to put all of her focus on the execution of the game plan.

Brailsford passionately adheres to a philosophy he calls, “the aggregation of marginal gains”. The idea is that most riders (you could include all athletes and business executives) underestimate the impact of little things and therefore tend to ignore them. Therefore, if you broke down everything you could think of that goes into riding a bike, and then improved it by 1%, you would get a significant increase when you put them all together. Additionally, you would get a huge confidence boost because you would know that nothing was left to chance.

In cycling, of course preparation involves fitness and conditioning, technique training, and nutritional strategies. But Brailsford goes even deeper.  He considers the pillow each athlete sleeps on to ensure optimal recovery; he considers hand-washing processes to improve hygiene and help the immune system (a weak spot for any elite athlete or executive); he considers psychologists to develop the mindset of each athlete from an individual perspective; and he implements the latest technology, drawing from other cutting edge research (such as our partners at McLaren) in other fields to gain percentage points of performance advantage and stay one spoke ahead of the competition.

This is very similar to our Tignum approach. By teaching our executive clients to pay attention to the details, to integrate small changes from Mindset, Nutrition, Movement, and Recovery, they experience “the aggregation of marginal gains.”  Sadly enough, there isn’t an Olympics to showcase their competitive edge, or a medal podium to celebrate it, but everyday we see the impact. 

In isolation some strategies may look small, but when they are combined as part of your daily regiment they quickly add up to make a big difference. In a highly competitive business world, with the demands constantly growing, this is the edge that Sustainable High Performance gives you.

By Angela Walker
Tignum Performance Nutrition Coach