The 7 Problem-Solving Principles Behind the World’s First Flight

1. FORGING uses constructive conflict to uncover and validate new ideas and strategies. Like a blacksmith’s forge, ideas are subjected to the “heat” of discussion and the “blows” of contention until a practical solution begins to take shape. When the Wright brothers launched into one of their “spirited debates,” forging happened naturally.

2. TACKLE THE TYRANT is based on the idea that within each problem there is a potential “tyrant,” a subset of the problem that, if not resolved, will prevent the ultimate solution. By putting the tyrant first, costs are limited if a solution proves unachievable. Refuting prevailing assumptions, the Wright brothers identified control and balance as the “tyrant”—the primary obstacles to manned flight.

3. FIDDLING says new ideas and approaches can be created by tinkering with portions of a problem in an effort to understand, repair, or improve it. Fiddling, the art of making connections and contrasts, depends on both tactile and conceptual tinkering. The Wright brothers were inveterate tinkerers.

4. MIND-WARPING encourages flexing the mind, allowing it to consider possibilities beyond the borders of thought established (and limited) by policy, tradition, and personal experience. It is the ability to think “outside the box,” without abandoning the box. The Wright brothers gained fresh and pivotal insights into the problem of manned flight after observing a flight of buzzards.

5. RELENTLESS PREPARATION says that “forever learning”—learning as a lifelong passion-is essential to generating the information needed to solve problems. Forever learning draws a dotted line between the need to solve problems and the reservoir of ideas we possess to do so. Wilbur was a voracious reader and meticulous researcher; Orville was insatiably curious.

6. MEASURING TWICE says that the fastest and most efficient way to solve a problem is by being meticulous and methodical in your approach. The Wright brothers were scrupulous in planning the photograph of the first flight—a perfect picture that many simply consider a “lucky shot.”

7. FORCE MULTIPLICATION states that the output of a group of people (force) with a common purpose is increased exponentially (multiplied) by a seamless interdependence powered by five areas of team equity: trust, effort, profits, power, and honor. This principle is epitomized in the partnership of Wilbur and Orville Wright.

Adapted from THE WRIGHT WAY: 7 Problem-Solving Principles from the Wright Brothers That Can Make Your Business Soar by Mark Eppler (AMACOM)

Source: American Management Association


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