Feb 14

Innovation is Like Riding a Bike

Photo by goat_girl_photos / CC BY

After three years at a corporate innovation lab, I learned that the secret to innovation is this: you just need to innovate.

When I tell people this, I just get the stare of incredulity. There must be a process, an org structure, and/or a personality type which drives innovation. It can’t be just “Just do it.”

But it is.

I searched for an analogy to explain my advice. Learning to ride a bike is the closest one that I could think of because you get the same advice: “You just have to try and try again. You’ll fall a lot, but eventually you just get it.” I can’t think of a better definition of the entrepreneurial mindset.

Try this thought experiment: replace the activities that people do to be more innovative with “learning to ride a bike”. For example:

  • I attended a conference about riding a bike to learn from others who have done it.
  • I attended a seminar and bought a book about how to ride a bike.
  • I invested in a startup that will help me learn to ride a bike.

Of course, these statements are extreme examples, but they prove my point that some things can only be learned by doing them. To learn how to ride a bike, you need to get on a bike. Yes, you will fall down many, many times. But if you keep at it, all of the pieces finally come together, and you are riding a bike!

The best thing of all? You can’t unlearn it. You will have that skill forever.

What does that mean for you? Start making yourself and your organization fit to try new things, then try some new things. If one of those things is successful, then you will hailed as an innovator.

If you are not successful, then get back on the bike and try again.


What do you think of this post? Good, bad, neither? Let me know on Twitter @petershiau.


“down she went” photo by goat_girl_photos is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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