Getting Your Ideas Off the Ground: 7 Lessons from the Wright Brothers

On December 17, 1903, near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, the Wright Flyer became generally accepted as the first powered, heavier-than-air machine to achieve controlled, sustained flight with a pilot aboard. 

Looking back over these 115 years from a personal viewpoint:

  • In 1903, my grandmother was 5 years old.
  • In 1953, my parents were married.
  • In 2003, the second of my four children began college.
  • Today, in 2018, all 14 of my immediate family have traveled by airplane. My Air Force grandkids, even at 5 and 8, have more frequent flyer miles than I do.

In the lifetime of my extended family, “flying” has come from non-existent to a routine afterthought.

The principles of flying even extend beyond our earth, to travel in space.

How did two men, in 1903, working essentially alone and with little formal scientific training, solve a problem so complex and demanding as heavier-than-air flight, which had defied better-known experimenters for centuries?

Certainly the brothers were talented, but the true answer also lies in their background and early experiences.

With no education beyond public schools, how did the the Wright brothers get past numerous obstacles the world’s other scientists hadn’t even begun to tackle?

In 2003, on the 100th anniversary of the first flight, Mark Eppler published The Wright Way, defining seven essential problem-solving principles the brothers used in accomplishing this enormous feat.

  • A passion for knowledge and information
  • An ability to argue through tough issues in search of truth
  • An ability to identify the hardest part of a problem, and the discipline to begin there
  • A talent for tactile and conceptual tinkering
  • An ability to conceptualize new (often radical) ideas, and the courage to consider them
  • A penchant for method and meticulous attention to detail
  • An ability to create infinitely more together than they could by themselves

On today’s 115th anniversary of the flight at Kitty Hawk, leaders should look at the above list and apply them to problems they are facing.

Applying these principles might just help you get your ideas “off the ground.”

For additional information about the fascinating story of the Wright Brothers, here are four great books I recommend:

 

 

 

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