Bicycle Brainstorming

There’s a lot being said about bike safety. I’m in conversations every day with someone who’s got an idea, a suggestion, a complaint.

There are so many good ideas percolating up that my usual techniques of keeping track are overwhelmed — I’ve resorted to printing out all the emails. There’s a growing pile — I don’t want to forget a single suggestion.

I’ll bet my fellow Bike Safety Committee members are likewise deluged from their social networks. So how will we sort through all these ideas?

Like any time humans dream, some ideas are immediately recognizably good, other obviously poor and most half-baked, in need of some work to bring the concept into one of the other two categories.

This reminds me of brainstorming — entrepreneurs do lots as they forge their crazy ideas into new products and companies.

Some fellow committee members come with traffic engineering backgrounds, others legal and land use planning — me, I was a change agent as a young man. As a managment consultant I worked in very large client companies; my objective always the same, to improve productivity. My ideas would often be negligible by themselves, to succeed I had to ignite a culture of change within the management team. They would become the ones to reinvent their company. I had to teach them to brainstorm.

Brainstorming’s a state of mind. It requires good listening skills, so when someone first suggests some new idea, the rest of us must bite our tongues. The rules require that we listen well and postpone any negative critiques — for a single practical reason: most really good ideas start off as someone’s half-baked idea. If it were to be killed off immediately, the derivative idea may have never come to light. Good ideas evolve; they need nurturing as they first appear on the scene.

So for Monday’s Bike Safety Meeting, as we gather to review the many bike safety ideas that our constituents propose, let’s exercise good brainstorming behaviors and listen well.

Please refrain from killing off the lame brain theories — forget for a moment the rules set by Caltrans, OCTA and state law. We operate in a world of many constraints, some might say we’re in this mess due to these agencies’ imposing the rules of the road.

But for this one night please, let’s pause and reflect — there might be some jewel of an idea sitting right at our feet.

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