The power of Marginal Gains: Small changes for big impact

Posted in News & Press  ·  21st January 2024

In the pursuit of success, it’s often the small, incremental improvements that make the biggest difference. This concept, known as marginal gains, has been popularised in recent years by successful sports teams and businesses alike. The idea is simple: making small, consistent improvements in various areas can lead to significant overall gains. Here’s why marginal gains are important and how you can apply this principle to achieve success in your personal and professional life.

Understanding marginal gains

Marginal gains refer to the process of making small improvements in multiple areas that collectively lead to significant overall improvement. This approach was famously applied by Sir Dave Brailsford, the former performance director of British Cycling, who focused on making 1% improvements in various aspects of cycling performance. The result was a dramatic increase in the success of British cyclists on the world stage.

Why marginal gains matter

Marginal gains are powerful for several reasons:

  1. Compound effect: Small improvements add up over time. The cumulative effect of multiple 1% improvements can lead to substantial overall gains.
  2. Continuous improvement: Focusing on marginal gains encourages a culture of continuous improvement. It helps you stay committed to making progress, no matter how small.
  3. Achievable goals: Small improvements are often easier to achieve and maintain than large, sweeping changes. This makes it easier to stay motivated and consistent.

Applying marginal gains in the workplace

Marginal gains can be applied in various aspects of the workplace to enhance productivity, efficiency, and overall performance:

  1. Process optimisation: Identify small inefficiencies in your workflows and processes. Making minor adjustments can significantly improve overall efficiency.
  2. Skill development: Encourage continuous learning and development. Small improvements in skills and knowledge can lead to better performance and innovation.
  3. Team collaboration: Foster a culture of teamwork and communication. Incremental improvements in how team members collaborate can enhance productivity and job satisfaction.

Personal growth through marginal gains

Applying the principle of marginal gains to personal development can lead to significant improvements in various areas of your life:

  1. Health and fitness: Make small changes to your diet and exercise routine. Consistently choosing healthier options and incorporating regular physical activity can lead to better health over time.
  2. Time management: Implement small adjustments to how you manage your time, such as prioritising tasks, minimising distractions, and setting clear goals.
  3. Habits: Focus on developing positive habits and gradually eliminating negative ones. Small changes in your daily routine can lead to significant long-term benefits.

Examples of marginal gains in action

Here are a few real-world examples of how marginal gains have been successfully applied:

  1. British Cycling: Under the leadership of Sir Dave Brailsford, British Cycling focused on making 1% improvements in various areas, such as bike ergonomics, athlete nutrition, and even the type of pillows athletes used for better sleep. This approach led to a remarkable increase in Olympic and Tour de France victories.
  2. Toyota Production System: Toyota’s approach to manufacturing involves continuous improvement (Kaizen), where employees at all levels are encouraged to identify and implement small improvements in their work processes. This has resulted in significant gains in efficiency and quality.
  3. James Clear’s “Atomic Habits”: In his book, Clear discusses how making small, consistent changes to habits can lead to significant improvements over time. His approach to habit formation is grounded in the principle of marginal gains.

Recommended reading and resources

To delve deeper into the concept of marginal gains and how to apply it, here are some recommended books and resources:

  • “Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones” by James Clear: Explores the power of small habits and how they can lead to significant personal and professional growth.
  • “The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business” by Charles Duhigg: Examines the science behind habit formation and how small changes can lead to big results.
  • “Kaizen: The Key to Japan’s Competitive Success” by Masaaki Imai: Provides insights into the Japanese philosophy of continuous improvement and its application in business.


The principle of marginal gains shows that small, consistent improvements can lead to significant overall success. By focusing on making 1% improvements in various areas of your personal and professional life, you can achieve substantial progress over time. Embrace the power of marginal gains and watch as these small changes lead to big impact.

At Bright Futures Experience, we believe in the power of continuous improvement and marginal gains. For more tips on personal and professional development, visit our website today!


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