Backwards Biking and Thinking Differently

We know that our brains create heuristics—rules of thumb—which act as energy savers. Heuristics are our brains’ attempt to automate certain processes so that they can happen beneath our conscious awareness. Heuristics are a collection of behavioral algorithms in our brain. They are, for the most part, great. They help us efficiently navigate the world. But sometimes undoing patterns in the brain is the key to creativity, innovation, and success.

Check out this phenomenal example of how difficult it is to undo existing patterns in the brain:

Like Destin in the video, you’ve probably had many similar moments when something “clicks.” It’s a satisfying feeling when the brain has finally figured out the right “algorithm” for a given activity.

The reverse bike is a brilliant example of the brain’s ability, but it is also a great example of the brain’s limitations. It is very hard to learn totally new skills, or to combine old pieces into entirely new combinations and patterns. Yet new combinations and patterns are the key to creativity and innovation.

Edward de Bono put it this way:

The pattern using system is a very efficient way of handling information. Once established the patterns form a sort of code. The advantage of a code system is that instead of having to collect all the information one collects just enough to identify the code pattern which is then called forth even as library books on a particular subject are called forth by a catalogue code number… But inseparable from the great usefulness of a patterning system are certain limitations. In such a system it is easy to combine patterns or to add to them but it is extremely difficult to restructure them for the patterns control attention. Insight and humour both involve the restructuring of patterns. Creativity also involves restructuring but with more emphasis on the escape from restricting patterns. Lateral thinking involves restructuring, escape and the provocation of new patterns.

Trying to ride the backwards bike broke down a pre-existing pattern in Destin’s brain. It required that he rebuild a new pattern from the ground up. At first, he was clueless because while he had all the raw pieces to ride a reverse bike, he had not collected those pieces into a new, effective pattern. Creativity—new ideas, innovations, or investment ideas—works the same way. It is grueling work, and then, all of a sudden, it’s not.

Sustainable investing success requires us to think differently. This great backwards bike experiment is a great reminder that doing so is a very difficult task. Creativity is hard, but worth the effort.


Thanks to for the great find