The Wright Way: 7 Problem-Solving Principles from the Wright Brothers That Can Make Your Business Soar (Mark Eppler)

Introduction


 
Imagine yourself in 1903.There are no airplanes, no Internet, no smartphones.How could two brothers, two bicycle builders, who are sons of a Christian bishop, achieve what no one else has managed to do since the beginning of time? How did the Wright Brothers build and fly an airplane on that fateful day of December 17, 1903?How did they achieve flight?In this book, you will learn about the Wright Brothers.You will know how they crewed the first-ever flight in history. What was their secret? How did they succeed? What made them extraordinary?
 
You will learn7 problem-solving principles that the Wright Brothers applied in their endeavor.These principles will be useful for addressing any problem you might face, whether in your personal life, work, school, or business.The Wright Brothers were just small-town folk; they didn’t graduate high school. But they achieved one of the most important milestones in human history.The Wright Brothers did it with these 7 principles. It’s time you learn them, too.


 
The Event of the Century


 
On December 8, 1903, the New York Times printed an editorial of a man-carrying airplane.However, they wrote that this machine would only be built after engineers had worked on it for the next ten million years.Several days later, two brothers from Dayton, Ohio, actually built it.They flew their airplane on Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina.The older brother flew the plane while the younger brother monitored everything from the runway.It was December 17, 1903.The Wright Brothers tried to fly their airplane four times that morning successfully but failed.
 
An odd ground crew assisted them: two witnesses to the first-ever flight were a lumber dealer, three surfers, and a 17-year-old boy.They were curious to see what the Wright Brothers were doing. On the fifth attempt, Wilbur and Orville finally succeeded.John Daniels, one of the surfers, was asked by Orville to take a photograph. It remains the only picture of that historic event.Afterward, they all walked back to camp.The men could not believe what they had seen.They ran over the hills to spread the news. John Daniels worried whether or not he had pushed the shutter button in time. Apparently, he did.It became one of the most important pictures in history.
 
Back at camp, Wilbur and Orville warmed themselves, and the hungry brothers ate a hearty meal. It seemed that their ground crew was more excited than they were. Later on, in an interview, Wilbur Wright said that he and Orville had flown on their airplane many times in their minds. When it finally happened in reality, for them, it was just another flight.


 
Forging
The Principle of Constructive Conflict


Forging is the process by which a blacksmith creates a sword.He puts the metal on fire, hammers it, and folds the steel repeatedly.This is what makes the sword strong. Likewise, when an idea is debated or put into the fire if it is hammered down and continuously challenged, it becomes stronger. It becomes closer to the truth.This is what the Wright Brothers did to their ideas.Each time they debated, they became closer to the answer. “Constructive Conflict” is another term for debate.The Wright Brothers may have seemed like they were fighting when discussing an idea, but that is how they solved problems.
 
It was the summer of 1900.The Wright Brothers were in their bicycle shop in Dayton, Ohio.They opened all the doors and windows to let the breeze come in. Any passerby would have gotten startled because the Wright Brothers were shouting at one another.At first look, anyone would think that they were very angry and violent. The passerby might have even attempted to mediate in between the two to calm them down.But the truth is that the Wright Brothers were just having a debate.They were just discussing an idea on which they had different views.Their neighbors became used to hearing their loud voices. They would just wave it off and say,
 
“The boys are doing it again”.If they had not arrived at an agreement or a common answer, the Wright Brothers would continue to argue into the evening.They would sit in the living room after dinner;Orville in the hard wooden chair, sitting straight with his arms folded on his lap, while Wilbur would sit on the stuffed chair and clasped his hands behind his head with his legs stretched out before him.After a while, Orville would blurt out an idea that he was saying earlier and Wilbur would disagree, and the debate would be back.Their voices would grow so loud that it would alarm their housekeeper.The old lady would look into the room to check if they are about to punch each other.But of course, they were not.They were just having a constructive conflict and wanted to arrive at the correct answer.

The Principle of Worst Things First


 
“Tackle the Tyrant” means to solve the biggest problem first, before anything else.Take for example, a business project.The team may solve the easy problems first and get the final details in place. But as they are about to complete the project, they find that they cannot proceed because they neglected the biggest problem.They forgot to perfect the most important detail, and perhaps the team fails in the project.If you tackle the “tyrant” first, that is, if you deal with the biggest problem initially, then everything else will be easier.It will give you assurance that the project will be a success.This is one of the principles that the Wright Brothers applied in creating the world’s first successfully-manned flight.
 
There is a children’s story called “The Three Billy Goats Gruff”. Once upon a time, there were three goats that wanted to get to the other side of the river. They were excited to cross to the other side of the river because of the abundant green grass on the other side.However, the only way to get there was over an old wooden bridge. The water rushed fast and strong under the bridge.Under the bridge, there actually lived a big, ugly, one-eyed troll who wanted to eat anything or anyone that crossed the bridge. A little girl who was listening to this story asked her grandmother. “Why didn’t the goats just find another way?” The grandmother replied: “Maybe they did.
 
But sooner or later, they still had to face the troll.” They still had to tackle the tyrant.In 1901, Wilbur Wright was invited by his mentor, Octave Chanute, to speak before the Western Society of Engineers in Chicago. When Chanute introduced Wilbur, the mentor first made a comment about the problems of heavier-than-air-flight. Chanute said that the biggest problem is “the suitable power plant”, or the motor of the airplane. He said that the next speaker, Wilbur Wright, agreed with him.This was a surprise for Wilbur – he did not think that the motor was the biggest problem, or the ‘tyrant’.
 
However, he didn’t want to embarrass his mentor. So, Wilbur stood up and carefully explained himself. For the Wright Brothers, power and propulsion was not the big problem for achieving flight. Instead, it was balance and control. He explained this concern before the Society. “Compared to balance and control, all the other problems are of little significance. If we have solved balance and control, we will finally have the first manned flight.” This is indeed what the Wright Brothers tackled during those days in Kill Devil Hills.They tackled the tyrant and later on succeeded.


 
Fiddling
The Principle of Inveterate Tinkering


 
Fiddling or Tinkering is like playing with Lego blocks.You assemble and break the pieces apart until you create the structure you want.This was one of the important traits of the Wright Brothers, they would open up machines and fiddle with the parts to see how something worked.They tinkered with it and upgraded it into a better machine.Wilbur and Orville’s father was Bishop Milton Wright.He was often assigned to distant places and because of that he was often away.Even if the Bishop only had a small salary, he made a point to buy presents for his children every time he came home.
 
Bishop Milton liked to give them toys which would raise their curiosity and test their knowledge.There was one day when Wilbur was eleven and Orville was seven years old. Bishop Milton came home with a gift behind his back.The boys rushed to him and greeted him at the door.Before they could grab the gift, Bishop Milton released it into the air. It didn’t crash to the floor; it flew around the ceiling for a while before it settled slowly to the ground.The gift was a toy airplane. It was designed by a talented Frenchman known as Alphonse Penaud. Toy airplanes had been around for a century. But the creations of Penaud were different.
 
They were masterful and truly amazing.Other models ran with a bow and string, but Penaud’s creations had two propellers and a rubber band to keep them flying smoothly in the air.The Wright Brothers were very excited.They tinkered with the machine to see how it worked.They tried to make it better.They also designed bigger versions of the toy airplane, but they were not able to make them fly.It was years later that they would understand the relationship between power and size.The Wright Brothers learned that if you created a machine two times bigger than the original, you needed to increase its power source by eight times.The larger the machine, the more power it should have.That is how something heavier than air will fly. 

The Principle of Rigid Flexibility


 
Mind Warping is like thinking outside the box, but without losing the idea of the box. Imagine that you have an actual box.Now, imagine it in all the shapes and forms possible; this is mind warping.The original box is influenced by the rules of your society and your personal experiences. If you warp it, you will see new possibilities that you have never seen before.You will realize new solutions to a problem.The Wright Brothers tackled the problem of “inherent instability”. Wilbur explained this to the Western Society of Engineers in 1901.He did it with a piece of paper. Imagine that you are holding a piece of paper and you let it drop in a lateral position.The way that the paper sways through the wind is inherent instability.
 
Now, imagine your tiny self as the pilot of that piece of paper.You are riding there.You need to control the direction of the paper and you need to keep its balance with the wind.That is how the Wright Brothers pictured the problem.It isn’t surprising that they saw balance and control as the biggest problem because they were bicycle builders.Flying an airplane is quite like riding a bicycle: when you ride a bicycle for the first time, it can be very unsettling. You need to learn balance and control so that you do not fall.To build a bike, you need to deal with inherent instability.You need to have superior design and skill to create a smooth running bicycle.The Wright Brothers did a lot of mind warping.
 
They imagined, visualized and calculated. Building an airplane is a little trickier than building a bike. This is because the life of the pilot is at a great risk.The Wright Brothers had to make sure the machine was safe before they could test the airplane.Wilbur and Orville made their first attempt at flight in Kitty Hawk in the year 1900.They failed to make the glider fly.But they were happy and optimistic.This is because they have tried all the possibilities. They had tested all of their theories.None of them worked so they knew that they needed to keep improving the machine.The Wright Brothers knocked their heads and warped their minds more.


 
Relentless Preparation
The Principle of Forever Learning


 
Relentless preparation means a love of learning.It is when a person reads any book or studies any subject that he is interested in.Even if there’s no exam coming, you read or study just because you want to learn.You are collecting knowledge.When the time comes that you need an answer, it will come to you because your reservoir is full.You are always prepared to solve any problem.Like the Wright Brothers, the master visual artist Michelangelo loved to learn.When he was a 13-year-old boy, Michelangelo applied to be an apprentice in Florence, Italy. The painter asked him, “Can you draw?” The answer was no. But Michelangelo replied, “I can learn.” The apprentice came a long way from there.
 
Michelangelo said that throughout the years he was like a dry sponge thrown into a river – he just absorbed any knowledge he could find. He was always curious and grabbed any opportunity to learn. Michelangelo had a huge appetite for knowledge. When he was 84 years old, biographers asked him what his life philosophy was.The great artist answered, “Ancora imparo”. In English, it means “and I still learn”. Michelangelo had a long career of being an artist from 13 years old to 89 years old.He kept on doing what he loved.He kept on improving his skill.He kept on learning even if he had become a master himself.
 
The Wright family shared one great passion; a love for books.Aside from educational toys, Bishop Milton brought home plenty of books for his children.Every Sunday was reserved for reading and writing in the household.Wilbur and Orville, together with their sister, Katharine, enjoyed reading a lot.They indulged themselves in their father’s huge book collection; their home had one library on the first floor, and another on the second floor.Wilbur was especially interested in the history and culture of England and France. Orville, meanwhile, was more interested in science. Wilbur’s favorite book was Plutarch’s Lives, while Orville’s favorite was the Britannica encyclopedia.
 
They also read the books of Charles Darwin, Irving, Grimm, Andersen and many more.Bishop Milton encouraged all his children to be critical thinkers.He did not try to control or direct them on which books to read.This freedom of knowledge surely paid off for the Wright Brothers. 

The Principle of Methodical Meticulousness


 
Be methodical and be meticulous.That is how to measure twice. For example, if you encounter a problem, you should study all the details and think of a method first before trying to change anything.This is how to prevent mistakes and damages.The most popular photo of the Wright Brothers is that of their first flight.It was taken on December 17, 1903 at Kill Devil Hills.Some people say that the perfect shot was taken by luck. But author Mark Eppler believes that there was method and meticulousness behind the most important picture in aviation history.The photo shows Wilbur Wright as the pilot of the airplane.Orville was at the airstrip running as Wilbur lifted off.
 
Researchers say that the propellers should have been blurred in the photo because of their fast motion. But they found out that the camera was on stop-setting to get the moving propellers clearly.That proves Orville’s meticulousness.Anyone who has seen the picture will be captivated by it.Being in front of a huge framed copy feels like you were actually in that moment.It is as if you’re actually there to witness the first manned flight.It’s interesting to know that it was the only photo taken of that moment.That is the first and last photo taken by the man behind the camera. John Daniels was a surfer.He was one of the folks who frequented Kill Devil Hills.He had never touched a camera before in his life.Yet he took one of the most important photos in human history.
 
Was it just luck? Accounts prove that the beautiful photo and the first successful manned flight did not happen by accident.The Wright Brothers applied method and meticulousness to succeed on that particular attempt.That morning of December 17, 1903 in Kill Devil Hills,Orville parked the Wright Flyer on the runway.He got his anemometer to check the speed of the wind. He already knew how much power the propellers and motors would release.That is how Orville pinpointed exactly where Wilbur would lift off.He mounted the wooden tripod on the exact spot. It was on the right side of the Wright Flyer.Orville had already arranged the focus and exposure of the camera.When John Daniels passed by to help, Orville instructed him where to push the shutter.
 
Daniels was supposed to click the shot when the Flyer was two feet above the ground.Then he needed to put the plate back in the camera.He was able to do it with the methodical and meticulous instructions of Orville Wright. And so, on that fateful day, the man was finally able to fly.That man was Wilbur Wright.It wasn’t luck: the Wright Brothers calculated how to take the beautiful photo.They had several attempts before they succeeded in flying. They measured everything twice, thrice, and many times.Other men were also trying to fly their airplanes, but only the Wright Brothers succeeded. 

The Principle of Team Equity


 
Individually, Wilbur and Orville were two talented men, but by collaborating and working in sync, they created something more than they would ever achieve on their own. That is force multiplication. If you join creative people into a team and there is mutual cooperation, then these people will build more than any of them can imagine.In other words, the whole is more than the sum of its parts. That is force multiplication. That is team equity. As Bishop Milton said, “Neither of the brothers claims superiority over the other. Neither of them accepts honor to the neglect of the other. Neither Wilbur nor Orville could have succeeded alone.”
 
The Wright Brothers had all five qualities of team equity or excellent teamwork. These are trust, effort, knowledge, profits, and honor. Wilbur and Orville gave their full trust to each other. They knew that either of them could carry out the task. They also had no problem when it came to their finances.Wilbur and Orville shared a joint bank account.This is what they used for their entire career. They deposited all their earnings and savings in that account. Wilbur and Orville signed checks the same way. They only wrote “Wright Brothers” above the line; they just included the initials O.W. or W.W. below. Neither of them questioned the withdrawals of the other. This system worked until Wilbur died in 1912.
 
In 1908, Wilbur joined a competition in France. It was for the Coupe de Michelin Trophy, which would be awarded to the longest manned flight of the year. The winner would be awarded 20,000 francs. Wilbur exhibited his magnificent flyer well; he flew for 2 hours and 18 minutes. That was three times more than the runner-up. Wilbur was announced the ultimate champion.There was a dinner held after the competition. Orville and Katharine were there to support Wilbur. They all received the cash prize and the trophy on stage. Wilbur expressed his gratitude during his speech. After that, the host handed him the 20,000 francs.Without hesitation, Wilbur divided the pack of money into two equal parts –  he gave one half to his brother. Orville received it and put it into his pocket. With that gesture, Wilbur announced to the whole world that he and his brother deserved equal recognition.
 
Aside from trust and profit, the Wright Brothers also had an equal distribution of knowledge between each other.  Whatever Wilbur knew, he shared with Orville: whatever Orville learned, he shared with Wilbur. The two brothers thought as one. Wilbur once said that everything they achieved was the result of their shared discussions and suggestions. All the theories and ideas bounced back and forth between him and Orville. They increased their knowledge together. They turned knowledge into power as a team.


 
Conclusion


 
You learned about the 7 problem solving principles of the Wright Brothers. They are Forging, Tackle the Tyrant, Fiddling, Mind Warping, Relentless Learning, Measure Twice and Force Multiplication.Forging means to debate an idea until it becomes stronger.Tackle the Tyrant means to solve the biggest problem first. Mind Warping means to think out of the box. Relentless Learning means love of knowledge. Measure Twice means being methodical and meticulous. Force Multiplication means the whole is more than the sum of its parts.If there is one more secret ingredient in the success of the Wright Brothers, it is passion. They had loved flying since they were kids. They had been curious about it since Bishop Milton gave them the toy airplane. Wilbur and Orville also grew up as book-lovers and critical thinkers.
 
The Wright Brothers could have been satisfied in their bicycle business. They had the mechanical, financial and entrepreneurial skills to succeed. But they wanted something more. Even after many failed attempts, they didn’t give up on their dream of flying. They were passionate about flying and they didn’t stop until they finally achieved the first successful manned flight.The Wright Brothers learned that if you increase the size of a machine two times, you should increase its power eight times to make it fly. They believed that balance and control was the bigger issue to flight, rather than propulsion and power. And so, with all these principles, their passion, and practice, Wilbur and Orville made something heavier than air flight.It is truly amazing how a machine with hundreds of passengers can fly for hours up in the sky. We owe it to the Wright Brothers. We owe to the many engineers who choose the Wright Way. It’s time you apply these 7 problem-solving principles, as well. Once you do, you too will become extraordinary. 

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