Accelerated Solutions Environment Blog

Accelerated Solutions Environment Blog

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You can’t solve a problem with the same thinking that created it

I recently decided to learn to ride a motorbike. You may think this has nothing to do with the ASE but stick with me here; I’m going to tell you a short story on passing my test and how that relates to one of the many reasons that the ASE exists...

Learning to ride was relatively easy. Learning to pass a test was a very different experience.  For those who don’t know, a full ‘category A’ motorcycle licence comes in four stages; I got stuck on stage three (something called Module one).  The purpose of Module one is to mimic real life biking situations in a controlled (safe, tarmac) environment using cones and markers as the course. You have to complete manoeuvres like U turns and emergency stops to prove you are able before they let you out on the road.

Creating the problem

I did some training before sitting the first attempt. I was relatively confident. I knew I could do everything. Of course I was apprehensive though – one tiny little fault and it was an instant fail.

I failed.

I didn’t get the right speed for a manoeuvre called the hazard avoidance, or swerve. One kilometre an hour under the pass speed. I went home disillusioned.

Three weeks later (the earliest I could book in), I sat the test again. I was so nervous. This tiny cone had become something massive for me to get around. It had the possibility to ruin everything I was working towards.

I hit the cone with my foot and knocked it over; instant fail. I went home disillusioned again.

I knew my thinking was holding me back; I had created a barrier.  As far as my brain was concerned, I wasn’t swerving around a tiny little cone. It was a massive great big hill, at speed! In my brain it was like asking a car driver to drive towards a brick wall and turn to miss it at the last moment. Impossible! This was impossible. I was never going to pass.

The mind-shift

I talked to some motor biking friends. I joined a different school. I had a wonderful instructor. He taught me some things about riding; picking my line into the bend, counter steering and such like. But that wasn’t what really got me to pass. He challenged my thinking. This manoeuvre was called a swerve, or avoidance.

In my head I was going (fast) through a speed trap and immediately swerving a cone involving quite a bit of skill and concentration – there were so many things to focus on! But there weren’t - ‘You’re not swerving’ he said, ‘You’re just changing direction. Head for that lamppost (a landmark way beyond the cones), ignore the cones’. 

His simple challenge gave me some kind of epiphany. It worked, and it worked every time. It was so clear now – changing direction and picking a course that just flowed in the direction of where I was heading (towards the lamppost) was a million times easier than trying to focus on what was immediately under my feet. Test day came. I passed.

As I thought about my experience on the Module one motorcycle test, my mind trailed back to work and realised how important the ASE is and the parallels I could draw with an ASE experience. As facilitators, our jobs are often to get under the skin of problems, big problems. Part of our role is to listen really hard to what people think the problem is and to challenge their thinking.

During the lead up to an event and in everything we do in an event, we get them to look at problems in different ways, because ‘You can’t solve a problem with the same thinking that created it’. That’s exactly what my instructor did.  

On that sunny day in Mitcham, the simple challenge helped change my perception and reach my goal. I realised that if one man with a couple of words on a hard court in Mitcham can have that effect, just think what a whole team in an Accelerated Solutions Environment can do... 

About the author

Anna Penrose
Anna Penrose
Anna works in the London ASE as a co-facilitator. She’s mostly got a process brain and loves helping clients find smarter solutions to their complex problems. She’s an early adopter of pretty much anything new we bring to the Centre and plays a role in keeping our marketing (including the blog!) up to date. Outside of work life is all about frequent visits back to the countryside and going anywhere and everywhere on two wheels.

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