The Wright Way

7 Problem-Solving Principles from the Wright Brothers That Can Make Your Business Soar

The Wright Way

Author: Mark Eppler
Pub Date: October 2003
Print Edition: $19.95
Print ISBN: 9780814414613
Page Count: 224
Format: Paper or Softback
e-Book ISBN: 9780814427415

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Human flight is impossible.

Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, the Smithsonian Institution, and the United States military had all come to the same conclusion after years of failure. The New York Times was only slightly less pessimistic, opining that flight would be achieved in a million years—at the earliest.

It’s a good thing Wilbur and Orville Wright weren’t listening, because on December 17, 1903, these two brothers achieved one of the greatest feats in human history: They flew an airplane. The search for modern parallels to the accomplishment is futile; imagine if Neil Armstrong had landed on the moon—in a craft he built himself with money from a part-time job.

The enormity of the event cannot be overstated, but its genesis is something of a mystery. Who were Wilbur and Orville Wright, and how could these two unassuming bicycle builders from Dayton, Ohio, succeed where the greatest minds in the world had fallen short? Delve into their story and you will find brilliance married to diligence, perseverance born of courage, and humility surpassed only by confidence. You will also discover unmistakable patterns in the Wrights’ approach to problem solving, an unstated but clear philosophy that played a large part in their eventual triumph.

In The Wright Way, author Mark Eppler has distilled the essence of their methods into seven problem-solving principles that not only illuminate the brothers’ path to success but also hold direct relevance for contemporary business environments. Whether their organizations are foundering in a lackluster economy or are aspiring to dominate an ultra-competitive market, leaders and professionals in all fields would do well to adopt the Wright brothers’ principles of:

• Forging—shaping ideas through constructive conflict

• Tackling the tyrant—solving the toughest parts of the problem first

• Fiddling—“inveterate tinkering,” or constantly experimenting with improvements

• Mind-warping—approaching a problem logically, while seriously considering illogical options

• Relentless preparation —maintaining a lifelong passion for learning

• Measuring twice—paying meticulous attention to detail

• Force multiplication—accomplishing infinitely more in teams than as individuals

The author illustrates each of the principles with riveting historical anecdotes, contemporary business examples, and revelatory quotations from the brothers’ notes and correspondence. The resulting portrait becomes a blueprint for all those who refuse to bow to limitations.

One hundred years ago, the Wright brothers would not have had a “Seven Principles” poster tacked on their workshop wall. To them, it was simply a matter of working together carefully, tirelessly, indomitably. They had no mission statement, just a mission: to achieve the unachievable—and conquer the sky.

Mark Eppler is an award-winning speaker, a former marketing executive, and a passionate student of “everything Wright.” He has taught business and management at Indiana University and is the author of Management Mess-Ups.

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