Learning from others

Improving your performance

This is the third and final part in my mini series of improving your performance. If you have missed parts one and two you can find them here :

Part 1 : Improving Your performance : http://www.dieterhachenberg.com/improving-your-performance/

Part 2 : Your Passion : http://www.dieterhachenberg.com/your-passion/

Learning from others

How did the American female cycling team go from under-dogs to silver medalists in the 2012 Olympics? And no, the answer is not doping! The answer is data. They embarked on a training programme which had a difference. They started to monitor every aspect of their athletes. They gathered information on how hard they worked during training, their heart rates, power outputs, what they ate, the duration and quality of their sleep – in fact they started collecting so much data from their athletes that they became over-whelmed by it and were struggling to make any meaningful sense of it any more.

They decided to engage the services of some Big Data experts. They contacted Datameer, who worked with them to interpret and visualise their athletes data. Suddenly they were able to draw some interesting conclusions and make some key new decisions and choices based on the information they could now see clearly.

For example, they discovered that one of their riders, Jenny Reed, trained much better if the night before she had slept in a cooler environment. As we saw earlier on in this series, quality sleep is so important for the body to repair itself. It is during this time that the body releases testosterone and human growth hormone, both of which are vital for training and competing athletes. Armed with this new information they gave Jenny a cooling mattress so that she could control her sleeping environment to improve her sleep and recovery.

Suddenly they found they had new insights into their athletes performance and were able to spot trends and issues through their data. In fact they got so good at using and interpreting this data that they could predict you people would perform based on the rest and recovery information the collected in the preceding days. They were now able to select their squad for competition based on this data and predict their performance.

In 2010 a new cycling team was launched in the UK, Team Sky. At that launch event in 2010, Sir David Brailsford stated that the objective of the team was to have a British rider win the Tour de France within 5 years. Every body said that is impossible, how can a brand new team achieve that. You have no experience of these type of events. Other people have worked hard for years to achieve that. There is no way that can happen. We don’t have the riders or the expertise to do that. You are kidding yourself, they told him.

Team Sky managed to not only achieve their objective but totally smash it out of the ballpark, by having a British rider, Sir Bradley Wiggins, win the Tour de France within just 2 years of their launch!

So how did they do it when every body said it couldn’t be done? They adopted a different approach. They looked at every aspect of being a professional bike racer and said let us try and improve that by at least 1%. No stone was left un-turned. They looked at the design of the kit bags, they laid them out clearly so that the riders could access everything quickly and with minimal fuss. They taught them how to wash their hands really properly so that they reduced the risk of infection and hence illness. When they travelled away and stayed in hotels they took the riders mattresses and pillows with them to ensure a consistent nights rest.

They looked to improve everything by 1%. And each of those small improvements added up to a huge overall gain and advantage.

Imagine if you looked at every aspect of yourself and aimed to improve by 1%? Where might that possibly take you?

The point I am making is that we can look around us and learn from others. . A common trait in all successful people is that they continually look to improve. What could they do better? And you can take your inspiration and from many different areas.

One of the easiest and most effective ways but often overlooked ways to learn from others is to ask for feedback. Not everybody is good at giving feedback so you may need to help them – you can use this simple structure to help.- what went well? What didn’t go so well? What could be better next time?

Don’t be afraid of feedback, it is a wonderful gift. We all have blinds spots so asking for feedback is the only way you can see those.

If you are looking to improve, look to others, how do they do it? Look to the people you know who have already worked it out. And then ask them! How do you do that? And then listen. They may not even know the answer immediately as it is so second nature to them, so press them further, ask them, “If you did know, what would it be?” – give them some time to reflect and get back to you. Maybe that will be in a few days  but do follow up with them. Most people will be more than happy to share with you. It may be something that took them a long time to learn and realise, years maybe but they could save you a lot of time.

We are surrounded by inspiration and great examples – if you are looking to improve your performance, learn from the examples around you. Invest time in yourself – your performance is your responsibility and improving it can only be done by you.