The 1% marginal gains theory

Sir David John Brailsford, Britain's cycling coach, has been responsible for transforming British cycling. When he joined as Head coach in 2002 Britain had won only 1 medal in its 76 year old history and under his leadership Britain won 14 medals at the 2008 Summer Olympics.

"The whole principle came from 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"

In an interview to HBR, he revealed that as an MBA he was fascinated with Kaizen; the Japanese technique of continuous improvement.

He started by optimizing the usual areas of improvement like nutrition, tyres, ergonomics of the cycle, etc. 

However, he went to the extent of painting the truck floor white to spot impurities which may undermine bike maintenance. 

Surgeons were hired to train athletes in hand washing to avoid illness during competition. 

They brought own mattresses and pillows so athletes could sleep in the same position, the idea for which came from the Royal Ballet.

Read more
BBC interview 
HBR interview 2015

He is credited with championing a philosophy of 'marginal gains' at British cycling. He says


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