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Sir David Brailsford had a difficult challenge ahead of him. The year was 2012 and the Olympic Games were on. The team he was coaching, British Team Sky, had not won a single major cycling tournament since 1966.
Far from being discouraged, Brailsford approached the task by breaking down every single thing he could think of that went into riding a bike and then improved it by 1%. The nutrition of riders, the pillows that cyclists slept on, the gel they used for their massages, the ergonomics of a bike seat, the weight of tires — Brailsford improved it all, just by a tiny bit.
By putting all those 1% margins together, or by “aggregating marginal gains,” Brailsford ended up with a remarkable improvement. In 2012, Team Sky won Tour de France and went ahead to win two more. At the Games, it triumphed with 70% of the gold medals in cycling.