SagaciousThink - Global Operations Excellence
sage ideas | fresh perspective | sustained success

SagaciousThinking Blog

Musings from the team.

It's as easy as riding a bike

Recently, my husband offered me a refresher in what it is like to start something from scratch and being a bit hesitant about this entire process.  I found that experience a great reminder that sometimes someone who is an expert forgets what its like from a beginner's perspective.  For me these reminders were brought home as my husband (a semi-pro, in his time) rider tried to get me to accompany him on his morning rides.  I am someone who rode a bike growing up, but never a road bike that required me to clip in, as he was instructing me on.  As an injury prone person I was nervous; I value my skin.

What I learned was a well-meaning instruction without consideration for the leaner's perspective does not help, and can hinder progress. 

Try to Remember When You Were in Their Position

I realize putting yourself in their shoes can be tough, but if you can do it, or at least come close it helps you to better communicate the information.  If its been a while and you’ve done this training, recently, ask for feedback from your latest “students.”

 Tweak the Vocabulary

Biking has its own vocabulary.  For the uninitiated getting a data dump all at once is overwhelming.  As I was approaching a hill, my husband is shouting at me to “down shift.”

In my head, I am in my own private conversation about the gears, and switching which went more along the lines of, if I push this lever, it makes it easier (for the up hill) and this direction increases the resistance (for the down hills) – no voice was telling me to shift up or down.  Having to translate was challenging, especially when I had a death grip on the handlebars and was intent on trying to stay upright.

Lesson Learned:  Modify the vocabulary to allow the learner to make the connections and then revert to the correct language after they’ve mastered the basic concepts and have increased confidence. Ask people that have recently gone through the same process what words they used, and what resonated with them.

No Data Dumps, Please

Its tempting as you are on a roll, but telling those early learners everything they need to know in one fell swoop does not work.  The nights before our rides, my husband would give me advise on technique that maybe 20% stuck for a number of reasons:

  • I was not on my bike, so what he was talking about was abstract
  • I was not the least bit concerned about aerodynamics and energy efficiency when I just wanted to be confident I could make it home without taking a tumble

Lesson Learned:  Break up the learning into logical sections.  Allow for mastery of one section before advancing to the next.  Be prepared to repeat yourself, especially if there are breaks between sessions (Sesame Street was successful for a reason).

Keep the incremental advancements realistic.  

I made it through that first ride relatively unscathed.  For the second act, my husband wanted me to ride to the top of the mountain, near our house.  Granted it’s a relatively small mountain, but it was nearly 1,400 foot of elevation in about a mile, and I’ll be honest, I was intimidated.  We ended up breaking it up in chunks, but that was not by design.

Lesson Learned:  Allow time for people to become comfortable and confident in the new work or method before making requests to push boundaries.  Confidence contributes to how quickly ideas and concepts stick. The quote "Rome wasn't built in a day" resonated with me.

Consider when conditions are not ideal

 On that mountain ride I mentioned, the road surface was pitted and falling apart – it was an old service road that had not been improved in probably 20 years.  So for a new rider I spent considerable focus on staying on the smoothest parts possible.  My husband’s answer was that the “bike wants to stay upright and if you do hit an obstacle you can jump over it”  Yeah, sure. 

Lesson Learned:  Recognize that subpar or substitute conditions may, for a beginner, cause them to focus less on key points and incorporate that perspective into the training.

Don’t shine a light too early

My husband was so excited that I was finally riding with him that he had me kitted out, and I looked the part.  I felt like a fraud and was convinced that every other rider was not only superior to me, but judging my efforts.  I was anxious.

Lesson Learned:  Experts are comfortable in the spotlight, beginners are not, and have a tendency to freeze in these situations.

This was a great joint effort, I am progressing in my biking and my husband is learning new skills as an instructor.