How do you learn how to ride a bike?

I was writing in a coffee shop last week.  Two guys are sitting next to me.  They’re studying a book about project planning and execution.

They discuss the process of innovation.  The topic:  ideation – idea generation without judgment.   Their conversation is driven by the statements:  “Here’s a great idea.” and “I’m skeptical of this.”   These judging statements are the antithesis of the process they are exploring.  I’m not sure they’re getting the concepts in the book.  They haven’t applied any of the tools in the book.  They don’t know if the ideas are good or whether their skepticism is valid.  But they’ll judge them anyway without experience.

The two guys start talking about a two-minute ideation process from the book:

“I’m really skeptical about this two minute process.  I don’t see how this would work.  How about you?”   “Yeah, I’m skeptical of this, too.” They spend two minutes talking about their skepticism.

I interrupt.

I ask, “So this process you’re skeptical of takes two minutes?”  “Yeah.”  “Do you have two minutes to find out?”  “Sure thing!  “OK.  Go ahead.  Try it for two minutes.  I can time you if you like.  Then you’ll know whether it works or not.  How about it?”

Awkward stare.

It’s easy to get caught up talking about doing something.  It’s altogether different to do something.  You learn about doing something by doing it.  Thinking things through may be important.  Doing them is more important.

You don’t learn how to ride a bike by reading or talking about it.  You learn to ride a bike by riding a bike.

Stop talking.  Get on your bike and ride.

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