Congrats Andy Murray - wicked
Murray's continual performance improvement is amazing and something to be truly admired. Much of his success can be attributed to marginal gain.
This approach can be used in business, to max performance.
Many top sportsmen and women - and peak performers in business, consciously or sub-consciously apply the concepts of marginal gain.
Here's what Matthew Syed, a British journalist, author and broadcaster has to say about marginal gains.
The concept of marginal gains has revolutionised some sports. Could the same approach also change important areas of everyday life?
The doctrine of marginal gains is all about small incremental improvements in any process adding up to a significant improvement when they are all added together.
It is perhaps most easy to understand by considering the approach of Sir Dave Brailsford. When he became performance director of British Cycling, he set about breaking down the objective of winning races into its component parts.
Brailsford believed that if it was possible to make a 1% improvement in a whole host of areas, the cumulative gains would end up being hugely significant.
He was on the look-out for all the weaknesses in the team's assumptions, all the latent problems, so he could improve on each of them.
By experimenting in a wind tunnel, he noted that the bike was not sufficiently aerodynamic. By analysing the mechanics area in the team truck, he discovered that dust was accumulating on the floor, undermining bike maintenance. So he had the floor painted pristine white, in order to spot any impurities.
Each weakness was not a threat, but an opportunity to make adaptations, and create marginal gains. Rapidly, they began to accumulate.
He went further. The team started to use antibacterial hand gel to cut down on infections. When he became general manager of Team Sky, he redesigned the team bus to improve comfort and recuperation. They started to probe deeper into untested assumptions, such as the dynamic relationship between the intensity of the warm-down and speed of recovery. As they learned more, they created further marginal gains.
Team GB used to be also-rans in world cycling. Indeed, one pundit described the operation as "a laughing stock". But in the last two Olympics, Team GB has captured 16 gold medals and British riders have won the Tour De France three times in the last four years. This is the power of a questioning mindset and a commitment to continuous improvement.
But if this approach can have such dramatic results in sport, what could it do beyond sport?
So what does this mean in so far as your work is concerned?
Strong performance will bring you satisfaction, enhance your status and elevate you to the highest grade levels. This will, in turn, maximise your position on salary bandings and help get you pay rises, bonuses, generous promotions, and the best projects to work on.
Once established into your career, your performance becomes increasingly dependent on making small gains, which taken together achieve big results — as stated this is technically referred to as marginal gain.
Marginal gains: “take small steps and turn them collectively into big results”
Here's the implications for those people early in their careers, and those more advanced into them:
- For those people in their 20s and 30s:
Look at how organizations manage their graduate training schemes these days — they often comprise a series of planned assignments and opportunities to broaden participants’ exposure to the business.
This approach rapidly builds a participant’s knowledge base and tests their skills in different environments, so that within a couple of years, a graduate is often seen as ready for their first line management or big technical specialist role.
Over that same period, their salary has increased significantly and is usually linked to their performance. However, that scheme takes them to the point where the organization expects the employee to take greater charge of their own career plan.
High potentials (Hi-Po’s) may still get significant discussion within the organizations succession planning meetings, but it is easy to slip of the radar with one or two years of OK performance.
So your work performance is important to keep you in the frame within your current organization and in competition for funds from the no doubt stretched Learning & Development budget.
2. For those people in their 40s, 50s and 60s
Your work performance as well as your growth potential are what count - you don't want to reach a peak, plateau and then stagnate!
The longer you stay with a particular organization, the more likely you will increasingly spend more time in each successive role.
As you scale the hierarchy, the opportunities for big internal moves become more limited, yet the competition is still fierce.
So, it is important that you identify any opportunities, even the small ones to make gain ground and keep learning and developing.
Not only do you need to understand the concept of developing new skills, gaining new group but also you need to internalise the concept of the forgetting curve.
This hypothesizes the decline of memory retention in time. This curve shows how information is lost over time when there is no attempt to retain it. A related concept is the strength of memory that refers to the durability that memory traces in the brain.
The chart below shows the concept of the forgetting curve, in a short term context - this also applies in the longer term concept i.e. over a 5 - 10 year plus period.
3. In conclusion, to max your performance - you've got to continually acquire new skills and replace those which have become rusty, or forgotten
Grasp the idea of marginal gain and never let it go.
You can find out more about this, and how you can better exploit your executive career opportunity in our "Intelligent A Player" – executive career planning and performance development framework - which you can access here FREE.