The Power of Giving That Extra One Percent

People tend to think the road to success happens through big and bold actions. It is therefore worthwhile to step back and look at how small, incremental steps matter—and can actually guarantee impressive degrees of success. When a business, for example, exerts one percent extra effort in its disciplines, elements such as website conversions, lead conversions, and lifetime value may see wins never before imagined. As a reference to this, let’s consider the Olympics…

Success—from the Olympics to every other effort

Although the Summer Olympics ended last month, the sense of excitement and satisfaction lingers. That’s because the preparation of all contestants and their willingness to go for that extra one percent to succeed is inspirational. And that practice of making small but important effort applies anywhere.

Meet Sir Dave Brailsford

Yes, what may be called the “extra one percent rule” to success applies to every arena—whether it is sports, education, medicine, or business. Just ask Sir Dave Brailsford, who figured prominently in the 2008 Beijing Olympics by bringing the British Cycling team to a victory that was unparalleled in its 76-year history. In a 2015 interview with Harvard Business Review, Sir Dave explained his attitudes and practices of how to—gradually—attain victory.

A successful turnaround, thanks to marginal gains

Sir Dave, it should be noted, holds an MBA from Sheffield Hallam University in England. His education in business paid off when he became head of the British Cycling Team in 2002. At that point in time, the team had earned only one gold medal. As mentioned earlier, when the team competed in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, it scored a success that bordered on almost unbelievable by winning seven out of 10 gold medals. Oh, and they repeated this success in the 2012 Olympics. What happened? It was the “extra one percent rule”—or rather, what Sir Dave refers to as “marginal gains” in action.

Kaizen, and how small steps can make big changes

Sir Dave believed that the road to success was through small—not giant—strides, having become very interested in and influenced by the concept of “Kaizen”—which is the Japanese word meaning “change for the better” or “continuous improvement.” In practice, “Kaizen” is the process of making a system better through continuous effort. In a business setting, all measurable activities in every department are improved upon in a continual and gradual basis. As Sir Dave stated:

“It struck me that we should think small, not big, and adopt a philosophy of continuous improvement through the aggregation of marginal gains. Forget about perfection; focus on progression, and compound the improvements.”

The “podium principles”

With that in mind, Sir Dave and his team examined and improved upon everything from aerodynamics to mechanics in the truck they traveled in. Additionally, he ensured that the each team member made positive adjustments to their diet, sleep habits, and overall health. The foundation for these ongoing changes was based in “the podium principles”—strategy, human performance, and continuous improvement. There was one catch: Every team member had to be committed, or the marginal gains approach would not work.

The payoff of applying marginal gains

Based on Sir Dave’s application of marginal gains, the British Cycling Team experienced a big payoff when they won so many gold medals in 2008. Another contribution to this win, however, was a collective and contagious enthusiasm for their shared goals. As this positive energy develops, the desire to improve becomes greater. And, as a reminder—this process may be applied and practiced in any setting; not just sports.

Take an honest inventory of the operations of your business. What can you improve, and what tangible and measurable changes can you implement to optimize performance? Remember to keep any changes small, gradual, and ensure that everyone involved is in fact involved—100 percent.

Contact EGC to learn about our variety of services. From web design and development to consumer research—among many others—we can complement any application of the “one percent rule” (or marginal gains) to help your business achieve greater success.