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Aggregation of marginal gains

Chris BoardmanThe aggregation marginal gains – A philosophy for winning used by the Team GB Cycling team (and indeed Sky Pro Cycling under Sir Dave Brailsford). 

This week I was very fortunate to hear Chris Boardman MBE do the keynote speech at the launch event of SolidWorks 2014, hosted by Solid Solutions at the Heritage Motor Centre, Gaydon. Chris – nicknamed The Professor – talked eloquently for around an hour, taking us from his early life, through to his Barcelona 1992 Olympic Gold, and onwards to his coaching role with Team GB for the Beijing Olympics.

A central theme throughout the whole speech was striving for excellence. He talked about how the teams would become engaged with high performing teams from other areas, such as the Royal Marines or Formula One team members. And looking at how members of those teams reach the performance levels that they do.

One key lesson was identifying what was within the individual’s control and what wasn’t. Focusing all energies on the critical things within your control, and not stressing on the other stuff.

Another lesson was thinking laterally and without boundaries when designing or problem solving. Chris put this on the screens and said how many letter Fs are in this sentence:
FINISHED FILES ARE THE RESULT
OF YEARS OF SCIENTIFIC STUDY
COMBINED WITH THE EXPERIENCE
OF YEARS
Now, you may have seen this before and the usual lesson is that a lot of people only see three because they ignore the other three in the OFs. But that wasn’t the lesson today. On a training exercise which Chris’s team had been on, his colleague answered 20. “20? How did you get to that?” he asked. “You forgot about all the Fs hiding in the Es”, she said.

FINISHED FILES ARE THE RESULT
OF YEARS OF SCIENTIFIC STUDY
COMBINED WITH THE EXPERIENCE
OF YEARS

He also told the story about the Americans spending millions of dollars devising the space pen, whereas the Russian Cosmonauts used pencils. Again, another example of sidestepping the original question in order to get to an answer.

I’ve been a spectator fan of cycling for some years, so the glimpse behind the scenes of the wind tunnel work, computational fluid dynamics and other engineering was fascinating. At every step of the way, decision making processes were refined into scientific terms to define gains. And that, I guess, is what it’s all about, whether winning gold medals or designing equipment.

Overall a really excellent speech and many thanks to Solid Solutions for the day.