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Entrepreneurial Lessons from the Wright Brothers


The Wright brothers made history with their flight in December 1903. Their story has a lot of lessons for today's entrepreneurs.

antique airplane

The Wright brothers made history with their flight in December 1903. Man landed on the moon on July 20, 1969, a mere 66 years later. David McCullough tells us the story of this remarkable accomplishment on a barren strip of beach in North Carolina in his latest book.

There is a lot for entrepreneurs to learn from their example:

1. Perseverance in the face of adversity

2. How important early childhood is to set the stage

3. Innovation is a motion picture, not a snap shot. They mined many ideas from innovators that preceded them, thanks to some help from the Smithsonian Library, and connected many dots while inventing new ones.

4. They had a supportive ecosystem in Kitty Hawk to help.

5. They took many small steps to validate proof of principal before adding more complexity.

6. They looked to nature for inspiration and ideas, practicing the ultimate biomimetics. It also helps to have books in the house as a source of wisdom and inspiration.

7. They learned how to bootstrap the entire enterprise. The brothers’ total expenses for everything from 1900 to 1903, including materials and travel to and from Kitty Hawk, came to a little less than $1,000, a sum paid entirely from the modest profits of their bicycle business.

8. Neither had a college education. Neither had student debt. What they did have was pure old fashioned Yankee ingenuity. Need a light weight engine that no one had ever built before? No problem. They just built it themselves.

9. They learned to improvise.

10. They didn't let things go their heads.

Think of healthcare IT systems, including EMRs as one of the first powered gliders. The good news, given the pace of innovation and technology transfer, is that it won't take 57 years for us to land on the sick-care moon.

Also remember,

“If I were giving a young man advice as to how he might succeed in life, I would say to him, pick out a good father and mother, and begin life in Ohio.” — WILBUR WRIGHT

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