I was in the kitchen having breakfast the other day, when something on the radio really grabbed my attention. It was an athlete and Olympic medal winner describing what made the difference between winning the gold and coming second, between finishing on the podium and just competing. And it all comes down to attention to the smallest details. The Olympic competitors are all looking to improve their performance, their times, their abilities, and, at that level, the winning difference can be very small indeed. For instance, in the 2016 Olympics the British cycling team discovered that the paint they used on the bikes weighed 100g and they set out to find a thinner paint which weighed less. And then there was the swimmer Ryan Lochte, who turns on his back, and in so doing gains some precious time. Olympic competitors and indeed all high performing sports men and women look to make improvements, and these are mostly very small, tweaking a routine, a technique, but the effect to their performance is what compound interest is to a savings account. Hardly noticeable at first, the effect grows and grows until it raises them far above the normal person and gives them a real edge over their equally gifted competition. Yes, marginal gains in sport produce very important changes, but this isn’t confined to the area of sport.
I was reminded of the work of an American professor called Dr William Edwards Deming (1900- 1993). A statistician and business consultant, he was widely recognised as a leading management thinker in the field of quality, and it’s generally acknowledged that his methods helped hasten Japan’s recovery after the Second World War and beyond. He developed the first philosophy and method that allowed individuals and organisations to plan and continually improve themselves, their relationships, processes, products and services. His philosophy is one of cooperation and continual improvement; it avoids blame and redefines mistakes as opportunities for improvement. He developed his now famous 14 Points, to serve as management guidelines, and the fifth of those was “Work to constantly improve quality and productivity”. The Japanese word for improvement is Kaisen. Dr. Deming stated that only a commitment to a process of continual improvement truly rewards. This means adopting an evolutionary philosophy – such a philosophy prevents stagnation and arms the company for the uncertain future. Part of the evolutionary mentality is to abandon practices that, despite their obvious short term benefits, ultimately detract from the company’s effectiveness.
It’s the same with us as individuals. By making small changes in our thinking, or in the way we do things, we can, over time, improve our success rate, our happiness, our financial circumstances and so much more. So take look at what you’re doing. Are you in the job you want, the relationship you want, are you doing the things you really want? If not, what small change could you make to start to change your life? Not everything we try will work, or at least not first time, but we, as humans, learn from failure. Why is it then that we are so afraid of failing? Well, that’s a subject for another blog…
Change your Thinking – Change your Life