When our son was two we got him a balance bike. He loved it. When it came to learning to riding a bike, no training wheels (a.k.a. stabilisers) were needed and he was riding on his own within a couple of hours.
We tried the same balance bike with our daughter, however there was one important difference. And we overlooked it completely. Our son was riding his bike by now and our daughter wanted a bike like his. After months of trying to get her on the balance bike, we ended up getting her a bike with training wheels. And years later, she still still is struggling to ride without them.
Training wheels take away the need to learn to balance and allow children to learn other things like pedalling and steering. They also become comfortable on a bike, with not having their feet on the ground. Training wheels give them a false sense of security. All these things – pedalling, steering, being comfortable – are not the real problem to solve. All these things are meaningless without balance.
And while is true about learning to ride a bike, it is also true about other parts of our lives. Juggling is about learning to throw, not catch. Change is usually about culture and people, not the idea or the process. Learning is about asking better questions, not sitting in a classroom. Work is about learning, contributing, and impact, not punching a clock or a paycheque. And so on.
And when it comes to digital technology, it’s not about the shiny gadget. To paraphrase Bill Gates, ‘Digital exponentially increases efficiency in already efficient systems AND it exponentially increases inequality in already unequal systems.‘ Focusing on the technology missing the point, it’s often about power – who has it and who doesn’t.
As our lives, communities, institutions, and places of work are wrestling with the changes forced onto us by a virus we can’t see, let’s consider where we’re using training wheels and should be using a balance bike.