Little by little

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Shipping personal mattresses half way across the world, ensuring teeth are properly cleaned to improve hygiene, being taught how to clean your hands properly, and of course, perfectly spherical wheels.

As some of you may have guessed, I’m talking about the marginal gains philosophy that underpins the mammoth success British Cycling has enjoyed since 2012. For those of you who have never heard of this philosophy, it is best summed up by Sir David Brailsford, former performance director of British Cycling and now general manager of Team Sky:

“The whole principle came from the idea that if you broke down everything you could think of that goes into riding a bike, and then improved it by 1%, you will get a significant increase when you put them all together.”

The success of this philosophy struck me most whilst I watched the efforts of the various medallists from the British Olympic cycling team at Rio. And it got me thinking about how marginal gains relate to market research. Many projects throw up unexpected results, which on the face of it, may look insignificant, obscure, or even random. Individually they may not add up to much but add them all together and they could well provide the small incremental improvements which can make all the difference.

Let me give you an example. Customers completing an online survey answer a question about the perceptions of a business, selecting from a series of choices. 60% select the most expected choice, a further 25% select an option which fits another logical perception. However, the other 15% are divided across two other selections, ones which definitely weren’t anticipated. One argument could be to ignore these relatively small groups of people. However, if you are already ploughing your budget into the groups which you are already aware of, then how do you continue to be successful and increase your market share? The answer is to look at ways of appealing to the ‘marginal’ groups. Not being afraid to embrace the smaller, unexpected results, may just help your company reach, to use sporting parlance, ‘peak performance’.

Here at NGI Solutions, not only are we always looking at our own marginal gains, we also love to help organisations discover ways of making their own improvements, little by little.

Post by Nathan Shrubb, Research Executive


Image by Marc

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