The School Bike Metaphor

By Marc Lewis


The School Bike Metaphor 


We sometimes use the metaphor of learning how to ride a bike to describe understanding your creative process. Riding must seem so alien at first. It takes trust in the process to build up enough momentum to stay upright. It must be frustrating seeing people rushing around on their bicycles, some doing tricks and stunts, whilst you haven’t found your balance.


This video does a good job of stretching an already stretched metaphor a bit further:




It is a piece of expressive art that I had commissioned to communicate how I felt things went over the New Blood briefs.


It probably took a lot of persuading and cajoling – possibly even some threatening and/or bribing – to get the girl to consider riding her bike without stabilisers. But she went for it.


That mother running up and down next to her? She represents your mentors. They were with you every step of the way, making sure they were near enough to catch you if you were in danger of falling over.


They didn’t get too involved though. The mother doesn’t touch the bike. She had to run up and down, up and down, up and down. She had to be alert at all times.


There’s a dad, filming it all. He represents senior management in brands and agencies; capturing everything, right in the middle of things, but ultimately useless.


That child crying in the background? That’s the annoying baby brother who doesn’t believe he is ready to try riding a bike without stabilisers. He is crying because he thinks he can’t do it, but he doesn’t know. He might have been you, a few weeks ago. Not ready to try.


You produced a lot of very good work for D&AD New Blood, and you deserve to feel proud of your effort. More important, you learned to ride without stabilisers.


Coming up with a brilliant award entry was important to you. Failing would hurt, like falling off a bike might. Suddenly, things became real. You experienced adrenaline.


That’s why I love D&AD New Blood so much.


You learned things about yourself, and about each other, that you will never forget.


Just like riding a bike.


Now you know you can do it: do it eight more times. A bit better each time. A bit faster each time.


Learn a bit more about yourself, and your partnership, with each new brief. Take more risks. Pull a few tricks. Develop confidence. Take your fingers off the handbrakes a little bit.


Never forget the lessons you learned about your bad habits during New Blood and create tactics to change those habits. (Rory Sutherland will be coming in soon to introduce behavioural economics, but now is a very good time to start designing small nudges to make sure you stay on track. This is one of my favourite examples of one out in the wild.)


Discuss your New Blood wobbles with your partner, and plan for better behaviour. For example, if you have found it hard to stick to a routine of scamping every day, then it might help to clear your desk each evening, leaving only a pile of blank paper and two sharpie pens. You would need to clear the pile by scamping ideas, before you can clear your desk and put your laptops down.


Now you know how to ride a bike.  The quality of your portfolio will be determined by how hard you pedal, and how smart you are with your energy.


Where you end up depends on having very clear goals, a timetable that keeps you on track, and instruments helping you to keep pace.


Now you know how to ride a bike. So hit the track every day, mixing it up, pushing yourself a bit further every time, on every brief.

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