Marginal Gain

The theory of marginal gain is straightforward and powerful; it states that small incremental improvements, though not specifically noticeable, can be significant. In my reading, 1% is the traditional number used in sports for a marginal gain or marginal decline. Specifically, this method was used by Dave Brailsford to improve the performance of the British professional cycling team. These sports analogies had me thinking about a business application and continued work performance.

Marginal improvement is not about “boiling the ocean” but defining tasks and determining ways to improve gradually. For example, if you were to make one additional sales call per day or call a current customer, you would create over 200 touchpoints that would not have existed otherwise. That is an incremental activity that could pay financial dividends.

Let’s chat incremental time. What would happen if you were to spend just 15 minutes per day on your education? How would your work environment change? What opportunities could open for you? By dedicating 15 minutes a day, you could read about 11 books per year! Utilizing 15 minutes a day could result in you finishing an online certification program. You would change your work trajectory immensely!

Now, let’s investigate marginal process improvements. Take some time to look at the tasks you complete on a daily basis and determine where overlap exists and ask, “What could be done more efficiently and effectively that would improve the outcomes?” Many small and incremental enhancements will yield significant improvements. Again, I would suggest not trying to improve everything at once, but understand the most critical areas and begin there.

Action items:

  •  Invest an incremental amount of time each day to your education. Just 15 minutes per day will change the trajectory of your career.
  •  Make an marginal improvement to your business by making one additional call to a customer or prospect per workday.
  •   Review your processes and perform an incremental efficiency.
  •   Follow your progress. Things may seem slow at the start, but keep your eyes focused on the long-term benefits.