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B-Time with Beth Bierbower

Sep 16, 2021

Several people have shared with me how much they enjoyed The Wright Brothers book by David McCullough.  After reading it, I would encourage everyone to read this book.  Some people say it’s a book about perseverance and it surely is, but what I found most interesting was that the Wright Brothers understood that they needed to solve the challenge of a flying machine one small piece at a time.  They knew success would be a long time in coming simply because they had to deeply understand and perfect each aspect of the process.  No quick wins or “Hail Mary’s” for these brothers.  


I specifically wanted to share a few quotes and important moments from the book that left an impression on me.


For instance, when a friend told Orville that the brothers were an example of how far one could go without special advantages, Orville responded by saying that they in fact did have special advantages as they grew up in a family where there was always much encouragement to intellectual curiosity.  You have heard me speak to the importance of intellectual curiosity many times on this podcast so I was thrilled to read Orville’s statement on this topic.


In addition, several years into the process, the brothers realized that the calculations and tables that had previously been published and upon which they relied were erroneous.  They would have to start from scratch and create new metrics.  They built metal models that they tested repeatedly to get new and accurate calculations.  These new models taught them how to accurately build their flying machine.  When we think about our approach to innovation today are we building new models or amassing data through the same lens that has been untouched for ages?  What happens when we take the time to disassemble and build new models?


My favorite quote from the book builds on this previous thought.  “The best dividends on the labor invested have invariably come from seeking more knowledge rather than more power.”  This statement says it all.


The Wright Brothers book gives us a glimpse of the intellect, tenacity, patience and humility these brothers had to create a blueprint for one of the most valuable machines of our time.  It’s worth your time to read.