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040 – Moving forward on a backwards bike

Posted by  Shawn Callahan —March 26, 2019
Filed in Business storytelling, Podcast

As easy as riding a bike? Karen Stanton will bet you can’t ride this bike. 

backwards bike

This week, Karen Stanton, the Global Branding and Marketing Director at IFF (International Flavours and Fragrances), joins us from New Jersey. She shares the story of the ‘backwards brain bike’. 

When riding the backwards brain bike, you have to turn the handlebars to the left to go right, and to the right to go left. This sounds simple but is difficult in practice. The story suggests that while we might understand something on a cognitive level, that doesn’t mean our behaviour will change. Behaviour change requires dedicated time and practice.   

You can learn more about the origins of the backwards bike here, and you can purchase your own backwards bike here. 

For your storybank

Tags: behaviours, change, insight, practice, story-triggering 

The ‘backwards brain bike’ was created by a welder named Barney, as a challenge for Smarter Everyday’s Destin Sandlin. When riding a backwards brain bike, you have to turn the handlebars to the left to go right, and to the right to go left. Karen Stanton, the Global Branding and Marketing Director at IFF (International Flavours and Fragrances), purchased a backwards brain bike and brought it into IFF for several meetings discussing organisational change. At the beginning of each meeting, she would roll in the bike and place $50.00 on a table at the front of the room. She would explain the concept of the bike, announcing, “Anyone who can ride this bike gets $50!”

Each time she did this there were lots of volunteers, but not one person could successfully ride the bike. The concept was simple to understand but difficult in practice. It went against instinct.

Karen would then use the bike as an example of how difficult change can be. She would explain that while we might understand something on a cognitive level, that doesn’t mean our behaviour will change. The answer is not to assume it is too difficult and give up, but to allow time and practice.

The only person who successfully rode Karen’s backwards bike was the son of one of her colleagues. He spent about an hour getting a feel for the bike, then was able to ride it.

Podcast transcript coming soon!

About  Shawn Callahan

Shawn, author of Putting Stories to Work, is one the world's leading business storytelling consultants. He helps executive teams find and tell the story of their strategy. When he is not working on strategy communication, Shawn is helping leaders find and tell business stories to engage, to influence and to inspire. Shawn works with Global 1000 companies including Shell, IBM, SAP, Bayer, Microsoft & Danone. Connect with Shawn on:

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