You may think that the difference between average and awesome is huge. That it’s got a lot to do with the amount of talent an individual has, or their access to specific resources, or how much money they have, or how much support they are given.

But in reality, although these things can help, the one thing that makes the biggest difference to your success is attention to the smallest detail. Professional athletes and sportsmen and women all over the world are constantly looking for ways to improve their performance, their times, their abilities, and, at that the highest level, that winning difference can be very small indeed. For example an Olympic cycling team, when they discovered that the paint they used on the bikes weighed 100g, set out to find a thinner paint which weighed less. That perfectly illustrates the power of paying attention to the smallest detail.

While these tiny improvements may be hardly noticeable at first, the cumulative effect of such an approach will, over time, lead to strong and steady growth, but more importantly will give the individual who practises it a real edge over their equally gifted competition. And this effect 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 companies, departments, teams and individuals. By making small changes in the way we do things we can, over time, improve our performance, success rate, or our happiness. 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 as humans we learn from failure. Why is it then that we are so afraid of failing? Well, that’s a subject for another blog.

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“Make your brain work for you”

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