Making Small Changes to Achieve the Greatest Results

How the Theory of Marginal Gains Revolutionized British Cycling and Can Help Photographers and Filmmakers Achieve Extraordinary Results Through Dedicated Small Changes.

Sir Dave Brailsford, the former performance director of British Cycling, revolutionized the sport of cycling by introducing The Theory of Marginal Gains. This theory states that if you improve a host of tiny areas by only 1%, the cumulative benefit would be extraordinary. Through this belief and Brailsford's guidance, the British cycling team went from a mediocre performer to a powerhouse with 16 gold medals over two Olympics and seven Tour de France wins in only eight years.
“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 improve it by 1 percent, you will get a significant increase when you put them all together.” - Sir Dave Brailsford.
The team’s commitment to micro-excellence was legendary. For example, the floors of their trucks were painted pristine white so that dust could be spotted easily and bike maintenance would not be impaired. This may have seemed unnecessary, but when combined with other small improvements, it had a huge impact on performance.

Every detail mattered during the gruelling 21-day race, from custom-designed mattresses and pillows for each rider in every hotel they stayed in to customized diets and viewing angles set up on stationary bikes so riders could watch themselves cycle to help find tiny improvements in technique.

The culture of incremental improvement created an infectious enthusiasm that motivated everyone to look for ways to improve. The goal was a marginal 1% gain in every aspect of their training and environment. After implementing these small changes, the results were staggering — with sixteen gold medals and seven Tour de France titles.

This “marginal gains” philosophy is not only applicable to sports but also to business, photography and filmmaking. It is easier to focus on manageable improvements where you see specific results than chasing big ideas that may lead nowhere. Through dedication and commitment to consistently making tiny improvements, we can achieve extraordinary success over time.

How can we apply this?

Photographers and filmmakers can use the Theory of Marginal Gains to become more successful and creative in their work. By making small, incremental improvements over time, photographers can see significant results that would otherwise be impossible to achieve. For example, photographers and filmmakers can start by making small changes to their shooting techniques and equipment, like organizing their gear bags to optimize the shooting or reviewing the post-production workflow to save time and minimize errors. By doing so, they will ultimately be able to capture images with higher levels of detail and clarity that could not have been achieved through larger changes alone.

Furthermore, The Theory of Marginal Gains encourages a mentality of constantly striving for excellence which is essential for any professional photographer looking for success in their art form. This means having an open-minded approach towards learning new techniques, gaining knowledge on various topics like composition or colour theory, and experimenting with different types of equipment to find what works best for them and their style of photography. Dedicating a little bit of time each day to these activities will help ensure that progress is being made, which will eventually lead them closer to achieving their goals.

In short, photographers who embrace the Theory of Marginal Gains are sure to reap its rewards when creating stunning photographs with great impact over time. Through consistent dedication to discovering small improvements within their practice, they will eventually reach levels of excellence that may have previously seemed out of reach.


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