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Can Drafting Make Your Company 25% More Productive?



[New post from Tom Miller – President and founder of Symbolist. You can read more about him and where he’ll be this year on our Leadership page.]

Sometimes a few of us at the office start the day on our indoor bike trainers.    We set up our bikes in our Production Studio here at Symbolist and plug in a video that takes us through a race scenario.  It’s a fun way to get in some pretty intense work on the bike.  It’s also the only way I’m ever at the front in a race (I know it’s only in my mind – but it’s all I’ve got to hang on to so let me have the fantasy.)

drafting2One of the things that happens in REAL bike races is that packs form and riders begin to draft off of each other and work together allowing the pack as a whole to move as fast as possible.  If you want to be competitive in the overall race, it’s really important to be riding with a group – to work within the group, alternately drafting and pulling – allowing everyone to contribute to the performance of the pack of riders in total. It is similar to how a flock of geese can tolerate the physical stress of migration – by regularly shifting the leadership of it’s “V” formation.  Now, towards the end of a race, things start to splinter and it’s every man/woman for themselves as everyone sprints to the finish (in truth there are lots of other nuances that contribute to a win and I’d love to talk to any biking geeks about them if you want – send me an email.)  But, I want to talk more about the performance of the entire pack up until that final dash.

If you consider the pack as your company or team – your goal should be to help the team achieve the best result for everyone.  To me that means to adopt a similar approach. 

As I scan the companies we work with and consider how we work at Symbolist, I’m struck by the health I see when people are in places where they feel safe enough to draft off others and, when they are needed, can pull the team.  It’s not enough to say, “we encourage teamwork here at Big Company XYZ” – there has to be structure in place that nurtures teams and ensures that everyone gets in the game. 

A lot of this work ends up being related to culture and the perceptions people have about how they are valued.  There’s some deep work there, but it’s very important if you want to go fast as a company.

So who is your pack?  Does your organization make it easy to find people to work with and does that make you go faster?  

In cycling, a lone rider has to work about 25% harder to cover the same ground as those riders working together.  I think it’s the same in a business. 

Are you wasting 25% of your human performance in your organization? 



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