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The Wrights & their flight by study

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After exhausting his public library’s books on aviation, Wilbur Wright asked the Smithsonian Institution to recommend some. Wright bought every recommended book and reread them many times. They still bear his penciled notes in the margins.

Orville Wright told his biographer that the Wright brothers’ time spent reading wasn’t wasted because it gave them general knowledge and steered them away from dead ends.

In fact, the pair shunned guesswork so much that they always started with information-gathering and followed it with a discussion of these questions:
  1. “What is the objective, or problem to be solved?”

  2. “What’s been done so far?”

  3. “What can we learn from previous successes and failures?”

  4. “Can we break the problem into smaller pieces?”

  5. “Is information available on those smaller pieces?”

  6. “What information will we need to figure this out?”

  7. “What skills will we need to solve the problem?”

  8. “What resources (money, materials, equipment, etc.) will we need?”

  9. “What obstacles will we have to overcome?”
The Wright brothers solved the problem of flight by study, as much as by trial and error. It was something no one else had done.

—Adapted from The Wright Way: 7 Problem-Solving Principles from the Wright Brothers That Can Make Your Business Soar, Mark Eppler, Amacom.

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