The famous quote that sums up the world-beating success of the British cycling teams over the last decade is, “the aggregation of marginal gains.”
This philosophy refers to the idea that many small, incremental improvements, in different areas (training, diet, equipment, etc), create a result greater than the sum of the parts.
But there is another, equally significant, application of the ‘marginal gains’ model.
Specialists are given their title because they are the very best at one particular thing.
By default, a specialist is unlikely to be a good allrounder: simply because they apply all of their time and effort to becoming the best in one field. You see this in sport, business and pretty much every area of life.
Lionel Messi is generally believed to be the greatest football player in the world: but at five foot and seven inches he is unlikely to make a good goalkeeper.
Likewise asking your brilliant, numbers-wizard (if slightly dull at parties) accountant to head your latest sales campaign is probably not the best use of her hourly rate. But if you put these specialists in environments where they excel, you will get a significant return on your investment.
Jack of all trades: Master of none
The best way to maximise specialist expertise is, of course, to create a team of experts to cover each area. And in doing so, your returns increase cumulatively. There are places where a generalist ‘jack of all trades: master of none’ approach is useful and necessary.
But specialist help is the only way to reach the highest levels across the board. Local garages are often run by generalists, as are those who provide MOTs, because they need to be able to service a wide range of vehicles. But many drivers choose to pay a premium for the manufacturer’s expertise when it comes to their annual service.
Hotel restaurants tend to provide a wide range of dishes to cater to the varied tastes of their clientele. But High Streets and the internet are full of specialist options for those days when you just fancy a curry or feel the need for pizza.
Sports specialists are a great addition to your team
As teachers of PE & sport, our Physical Activity Professionals are adept at things like understanding age related activities, progressing and regressing to children’s needs, encouraging good social behaviours, and creating safe learning environments.
We ensure they have a generalist level of training, but our specialism is PE & sport and supporting learners to develop and apply skills in sport as well as an understanding of health and wellbeing.
We occupy a niche corner of the broader, and more traditional, education curriculum; but our focus, effort and attention are on achieving excellence in PE & sport.
We like to think this means we make a genuine difference in the lives of the children we teach.
Finally, let’s get back to the idea of marginal gains and why specialist teaching is such a winning formula.
When children grow up with the stability, comfort and comprehensive education provided by today’s education system, they are likely to do very well. Take it from someone who deals with teachers every day: We have some of the best in the world in this country.
But to move ‘very well’ forward to ‘exceptional’ needs specialist support. And the more specialists you apply across different areas, to support the outstanding generalist foundation, the more the cumulative effect rubs off and positively influences across the whole.