A few months ago I heard an interesting story from James Clear’s book, Atomic Habits, about the British cycling team that has a recipe for success. It began more than a century ago. At one point the team was performing so poorly that at least one bicycle manufacturer wouldn’t even sell bikes to the team to protect their own reputation. But since 2003 the British team has won the Tour de France six times. They have been the most successful country in cycling events in the last four Olympics. What aided in this drastic change? You might be surprised to hear that it was not a few large changes but rather many small changes. Coach Sir Dave Brailsford had a method that he called, “The Aggregation of Marginal Gains,” which is “the idea that if you broke down everything you could think of that goes into riding a bike, and then improved it by 1%, you will get a significant increase when you put them all together.” (You can read the excerpt from Atomic Habits on James Clear’s website.)
1% Better in My Home Office
The idea of 1% better was constantly on my mind when I decided to make some changes to my home office. With my desk in a different location, I noticed the lighting was now worse. I just grabbed another lamp and set it on the desk but that was still not satisfactory. After researching, I discovered lights that sit on the top of your monitor and point down. They also have the ability to change from warm or cool light. For a long time, I have used a laptop with its lid closed when docked at my desk using external monitors. With “1%” in my mind, I tried keeping the laptop open for a 3rd display to see if that would improve my efficiency. The list goes on: orientation of my monitors, using more keyboard shortcuts, and tweaking the settings on my computer. These changes, when aggregated together, make a great improvement.
1% Better Based on Feedback
Here at LearningBridge, we talk about graciously receiving feedback and then acting on it visibly. How can we act on it visibly? As we mention in our webinar, “Feedback Jiu-Jitsu: The Art of Receiving Feedback,” sometimes we feel the need for an extreme makeover when we need only incremental small tweaks. After getting feedback, we don’t need to sift through and make one earth-shattering change for everyone to see. Instead, we can break it down into many smaller manageable changes that when aggregated together will produce a substantial improvement. It doesn’t even have to be a large change broken down into smaller changes. It could be even just a few small changes that might be very beneficial. We have seen how small changes can have an outsized impact.
1% Better at Receiving Feedback
Even before you get to the point of acting on feedback, you might apply this principle to receiving feedback. Let’s say that when people share their feedback you tend to quickly refute or share your reasons (excuses) about why your situation is different. Applying the 1% better concept could mean that you decide not to refute or explain away others’ comments but simply thank them for the feedback. It is important to get to action, but start where you can. This also helps reduce the likelihood that, like a big New Year’s resolution, you’ll get overwhelmed and abandon the effort.
Small Changes, Big Impact
It is amazing how many details the British cycling team was able to identify that could be improved. They even looked into getting better sleep and personal hygiene to prevent sickness. Me personally, I am still finding things to improve my workspace and the way I work. I challenge you as you receive feedback to continue to look for ways to implement changes. These numerous small changes will add up to large gains.