A blog by Luke Thomas, Performance Coach & Director of Spring

“You’ve got to have something bigger”

Unless you’ve been under a rock somewhere for the past few years, you’ll have seen the success of British elite cyclists culminating in the 2012 Olympics and the Tour de France amongst others.  Dave Brailsford, their Performance Director, has made a big impact.  He says:

“The danger with making everything results-based is that once you get the result, where do you go?  That’s when you can go into decline rapidly.  You’ve got to have something bigger.”  ….. “We want to be the best professional team that sport has ever seen.” [not just the best team in cycling]

An outcome goal like that, drives performance and process – which in turn drive the outcome.  A circle of excellence that works fantastically with people in any discipline or endeavour.

Day to day motivation won’t be derived purely from wanting to be the best team in the world – and of course it’ll vary by individual anyway.

Dave has been famed for the use of ‘marginal gains’ – the principle that you deconstruct performance and make 1000 things 1% better, rather than trying to step change particular components.  He feels that isn’t the full story though:

“I seem to have been labelled with this ‘marginal gains’ tag” he says.  “I kind of wish I’d never come up with it.  It was more of a mindset than a philosophy.  If you’re trying to hydrate people, don’t give them water to drink, give them flavoured water.  It tastes better, so they’ll drink more.  Fact.”

It’s fascinating to note how he differentiates between a mindset and a philosophy.  Both drive behaviour in very different ways.

And finally, Dave on the ‘forensic analysis of performance’:  “I spend more in [this] area than any other team.  We’re probably spending a million on that, which other teams would be spending on salaries.

Intellectual doping, that’s what we’re doing.”

Hear hear to that.  The return on investment is straightforward to measure when you set out to measure it from the very start.

Quotes taken from The Daily Telegraph, Sept 17th 2012 and Cyclist, December 2012