Strategy

18th August 2016

Countersteering

Learning to ride a bike isn’t easy, as anyone who remembers their efforts as a child can testify but once we have mastered the tricky bit of balance, and stopping it is all pretty intuitive isn’t it? To turn right you pull the right bar towards you and to turn left you pull the left bar towards you. Simple! Well perhaps not.

You see the basic ‘steer right to go right’ only really works at very slow speeds. Once you have a bit of speed up, the precise opposite happens. To go right you need to steer left. You need to push the right bar away from you, not towards you. This phenomenon is called counter steering. Don’t expect me to explain the physics because I don’t know why and I certainly can’t explain why. I only know that it does. If you ride a bicycle or a motorbike at anything over a handful of miles per hour I guarantee that this is how you will be taking corners.

You may not have noticed, you may not even be aware that this is what you are doing. Even the youngest kid will intuitively countersteer to negotiate a bend. Next time you are out on a bike take a moment to notice what is actually happening.

So what has this got to do with business I hear you wondering. Well it is another example of that fact of life that ‘what got you here, won’t get you there’. Steering right to go right works perfectly at slow speeds and doesn’t work at all at higher speeds. Similarly there are things that work perfectly well at one stage in our business life that don’t work at all at other stages. In fact the things that smooth the way at one point could positively get in the way at other points.

Take the natural entrepreneur, the person who really doesn’t need anyone or anything to make things happen. Walking the path of the lone wolf is their natural way forward and it works with remarkable ease. However as the business grows, as we employ more people and as we start to allocate responsibilities and accountabilities to others, as we start to develop a management team, as we start to put structure in the business you can imagine how those traits can easily get in the way.

We need to be able to change, or get stuck. Not for nothing is the Darwin quote It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” As relevant now as it has always been.

It is worth noting why people don’t need to be taught to countersteer and often haven’t ever noticed what they are doing. The reason is that they are in a feedback loop that is both immediate and compelling. If you tried to turn, rather than countersteer, you would find out immediately that you were not going to make the turn and be forced to do something different.

The feedback loop when dealing with people and business is nowhere near so immediate, so compelling or so obvious. You will probably just start to get frustrated that ‘things aren’t working as they used to’. You probably wont connect the ineffective technique with the results you are experiencing. You will probably just feel frustrated or stuck.

If you are feeling frustrated or stuck it is a clear signal that it is time to try something different. What needs to change?