Marginal Gains Are The True Key To Success: Atomic212 Creative Strategist

Marginal Gains Are The True Key To Success: Atomic212 Creative Strategist

The boardroom bristles, chatter is rife as the boss enters, we all know a pitch is imminent and the energy is palpable. Minds are whirring, questions, ideas, worries of late nights and missed appointments. This is crunch time, where the battle is won or lost. This is where we make a name for ourselves, Atomic 212’s creative strategist Oliver Perry says: wrong.

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Yes, this is where the excitement is at its highest and these are the moments that are discussed at dinners and award ceremonies… but these are not the pivotal moments that define agencies or any business for that matter. Interestingly, it is the Tuesday afternoon, two months prior when work is slow and your Facebook feed looks particularly appealing and just one more cat video won’t hurt. This is the golden time.

It is here that we are able to clear our heads, assess our successes and analyse our failures. It is here that we make the changes that allow us to improve in the future. Here is where we make our marginal gains.

So here come the fun facts…

Inspiration for this image came from a graphic in The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson.Inspiration for this image came from a graphic in The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson.

Rohn explains that it is easy to over estimate one large defining moment and underestimate the value of making better decisions on a daily basis. An improvement of one percent goes unnoticed but over time they add up and create a significant increase in the long run. The same goes for an aggregation of marginal losses, if you make a one percent decline here and there the gap between the two becomes pronounced.

The advent of Rio and impending Olympic excitement triggers another interesting thought – this concept of aggregation and marginal gains was particularly applicable to what British Cycling coach, Sir Dave Brailsford, put into action throughout the 2012 London Olympics.

Brailsford (a personal fan) broke down the life of his athletes into granular detail, making minor changes like improving sleeping quality by having the same pillow wherever the team travelled (sounds crazy, but hey it worked). Team illness were reduced by banning shared water bottles and making sure athletes used anti bacterial hand wash when cleaning their hands.

While this is a very sports centric example the same principle can be applied in business. To give one example, at 212 Ignite we have tried to apply this concept to our project pipeline process. While we already logged our jobs onto a cloud based system, it lacked tangibility as most projects came and went without leaving the comfort of an inbox. We felt disconnected from our projects and had little or no visibility on what else was going on in the department. So we made a change, we created a project wall with sections for all stages of the project timeline, including an inspiration wall and hotspot board for pitch time.

After initial use, we noticed that although tasks were assigned to individuals, it wasn’t always obvious. So we made another minor change. We added a bright red sticky note with the project leader’s initials. These incremental changes added visibility to our process and gave an increased sense of responsibility to individuals. It also increased engagement around projects and created a sense of accomplishment when the project moved through each stage towards completion.

Whether it is work, sport or life, incremental improvements made throughout the day do add up in the long run and they are often more attainable and effective than one big shift. It is the learnings, conversations and changes in the down time, no matter how small, that will be the difference between success and failure in that sweaty board room come pitch day.