The Balance Bike: Innovating on Product vs. Innovating on Process

I was excited as a father to teach my son how to ride a bike.

And when I was a kid we would use training wheels where you screw these additional wheels onto your bike so that you don't have to figure out the balancing part, you can just figure out pedalling and steering. And then when you're done with those skills, off come the training wheels and you're ready to learn how to balance. It usually involves falling down a bunch of times, getting scraped elbows and putting ice on it and things like that, and I was anticipating that being the case as with my son as well.

But he started with a balance bike instead of getting training wheels, which is a totally different configuration. Instead of it being a bike with additional wheels added to it, a balance bike has the pedals removed. And so instead of focusing on teaching him how to pedal and steer and then learn how to balance, he learns how to balance and steer and then how to pedal.

And it was the funniest thing because as soon as we put him on a real bike that had pedals, I was ready to be following after him and helping clean the gravel out of his cuts, and he just took off, he just started peddling away.

And it was the funniest thing because as soon as we put him on a real bike that had pedals, I was ready to be following after him and helping clean the gravel out of his cuts, and he just took off, he just started peddling away.

Tying this back to traditional UX, traditional product management: If you're working at a training wheel company and you do user experience research and you realize that people should be learning how to balance before they learn how to pedal, how do you incorporate that into the features of the training wheels? You don't! Because the training wheels insist that there is a different process to learning how to ride a bike.

It's only by letting go of the training wheel paradigm, and innovating on the process rather than the training wheels themselves, that you can make the outcome (learning how to ride a bike) happen more reliably. It's paying attention to the order of the steps and being present with the right resources at the right time. That's most important rather than trying to make one really, really, really ultra good resource for every possible use case.