Applying Marginal Gains One Small Step At A Time, with Chris Fleming

Chris Fleming steps in to join us for Series 3, Episode 3 of the Re-Thinking the Human Factor Podcast.

If you have been with us here for sometime you will know we strive to bring you the highest caliber guests for your listening delight.  After hearing Chris do an incredible presentation at the SANS conference on marginal gains (you all know how much we here at the podcast love those marginal gains) we knew he would be the perfect guest to bring on the show.

Chris studied accounting and finance, but made a career change and is currently acting as Senior Manager of Global Security Culture & Awareness at an international insurance company. His approach to internal security is firmly rooted in understanding human behaviour to bolster security from within with both compassion and empathy.  To put it in Chris’s own words he is: ‘responsible for strengthening the human firewall…one nudge at a time.’

“Big gains can become apparent when small, incremental improvements are made across the board.”

In today’s interview we’ll be discussing how the various parts of the whole can be upgraded one small step at a time.

Applying Marginal Gains One Small Step At A Time, with Chris Fleming

by Bruce Hallas | Re-thinking the Human Factor Podcast


Factoring human behaviour in to security procedure can allow a more empathetic reaction to security issues.

Malicious insider risk, the human angle. Is a thief always just a bad egg?

  • Human behaviour can be affected by changes in external influences. Understanding these can create a better security culture.
  • Creating a stronger network within internal security via education and the building of awareness, can open up the possibility of preventing internal risk.
  • Internal support systems can be set up to help employees deal with difficulties. Small changes in the way issues are dealt with can have a huge impact.

The importance of being well read to expand your knowledge.

How the aggregation of marginal gains can help you achieve your larger goal –

  • When the British Cycling Team hired Dave Brailsford as its new performance director he changed tiny details within the teams cycling regime to change performance.
  • Marginal gains is the concept of breaking down every single part of a whole to work on improving them individually, by as little as 1%.
  • How simply changing a pillow had a knock on affect.

The main hurdles we face when trying to apply change across a large company –

  • When you as a team are tasked to change the security culture across an organisation it is a huge job and usually comes with little budget.
  • A lack of manpower can be overcome by using the concept of aggregated marginal gains.
  • Takeru Kobayashi, a professional speed eater, made incremental changes to improve his performance, breaking world records against all odds.

Finding opportunities to apply material gains within security and awareness.

  • Communications need little manpower or budget to be tackled. Simply changing the way an email is sent can reap measurable gains.
  • Choosing your words wisely, language impacts response.
  • Randomised controlled trials, otherwise known as AB testing, and how these help you fine tune your process.
  • Low risk and low investment — maximum rewards. A great compliment to larger initiatives.

Applying Marginal Gains One Small Step At A Time, with Chris Fleming

by Bruce Hallas | Re-thinking the Human Factor Podcast


Dave Brailsford
Atomic Habits by James Clear
The Kaizen Method


Chris Fleming

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Thanks for listening and sharing.

Bruce & The Re-thinking the Human Factor Podcast Team