Small changes lead to big results
Last month, I spent a couple of weeks taking part in GitLab's CEO shadow program. One of my big takeaways from that time is how much Sid, GitLab's CEO, focuses on breaking big projects down into smaller and smaller components. This type of iteration is widespread for teams developing software but not as common in marketing.
Iteration is not natural for me. My brain wants to deliver the perfect result for any project I work on, which is why I don't publish here much. I start a draft because I'm excited about something, and then as I write, I talk myself out of ever publishing what I started.
Since iteration is a core value at GitLab, my work-self is much better at iteration now. After a couple of years of reducing my projects and watching others' example at GitLab has helped me overcome some perfection paralysis for my marketing work.
It's still something I struggle to do outside of work.
A few weeks ago, I came across an article on how British Cycling used marginal gains to become the best cycling team in the world. It pushed me to focus on improving iteration in my personal routines. They talked about the concept of microexcellence, and that's what clicked for me.
Brailsford believed that if you make a 1% improvement in a host of tiny areas, the cumulative benefits would be extraordinary. The theory of marginal gains (or, as I sometimes call it, “microexcellence”) has been credited for vaulting the British cycling team from a mediocre performer to 16 gold medals over two Olympics and seven Tour de France wins in eight years.
If I can improve something 1% every day, or every week or month, that small improvement adds up the longer I can keep improving. It might be commons sense, but for my inner perfectionist, this clicked so much in place.
As an example, I've wanted to build a notebook/personal wiki of what I'm learning to document and help me remember things I don't do every day. It's been on my to-do list for a long time, but I waited because I wasn't sure what format to use or what I wanted to document.
After reading this British Cycling article, I just dove in and started. For the last few weeks, I've been documenting what I'm learning, keeping a living to-do list, and taking notes on things I want to remember. Getting started has already helped me create something valuable to me. It's only going to get better the more I use it.
If iteration isn't natural to you, maybe this story about British Cycling will help you see areas where you can start building marginal gains.