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

Article excerpt

The Wright Way: 7 Problem-Solving Principles from the Wright Brothers That Can Make Your Business Soar Mark Eppler AMACOM (2003) 224 pages, hardcover, $21.95


This book has two primary goals. One is to provide the reader with a motivational story based on the efforts and accomplishments of the Wilbur and Orville Wright partnership. The other objective is to provide the reader with a problem-solving guide. The Introduction, Chapter 1, and Chapter 2 begin our journey towards knowing the Wright brothers and their method of dealing with the problem of flight. Chapters 3 through 9 focus in detail on the author's identification of their problem solving style: Forging, Tackle the Tyrant, Fiddling, Mind- Warping, Relentless Preparation, Measure Twice, and The Force of Multiplication. The final chapter, Souls on Fire, deals with the brothers' passion for life.

The seven problem-solving principles, which fulfill the second purpose of the author, begin with constructive conflict. While some companies may have cultures that do not allow for rigorous discussion of ideas, that was not true with the brothers. Wilbur noted that "Orv's a good scrapper." The author lists traits that allowed Wilbur to appreciate Orville's willingness to be tough on ideas. These include mental honesty, enthusiasm, focused listening, flexible thinking, and confidence. The second principle identified by the author is tackling worst things up front. Mr. Eppler suggests that you need to deal with the hardest and seemingly unsolvable part first. The steps include defining the primary objective, breaking the problem down into components, gathering as much information as possible, identifying the obstacles, rank-ordering the difficulties, clearly identifying the most difficult, and tackling this before pursuing easier or more interesting issues. Third, the author discusses the principle of fiddling around, noting three types of tinkering: tactile, conceptual, and hybrid. The fourth principle comes to terms with the ability to deal effortlessly with the abstract and concrete. Mr. Eppler says that problem-solvers need to be comfortable not-knowing while seeking comprehension. They need to embrace their curiosity, develop their vision, fantasize, be comfortable with contradictions and instability, take risks, and look for new ideas in related activities. The fifth principle indicates that learning should be a life-long passion. The Wright brothers demonstrate an insatiable curiosity which leads to their relentless preparation. The next principle deals with being methodically meticulousness. The author states that the best way to be efficient and effective is to measure twice and cut once, i.e., start with a good foundation work thus eliminating the need for re-working tasks. The last principle involves teamwork. The author demonstrates that the Wright brothers displayed team synergy through their equal distribution of trust, effort, profits, information, and glory. He points out that we honor the Wright brothers as inventors of the airplane, not one brother at the exclusion of the other.


The book is aimed at a general management audience, and the author's enthusiasm about the Wright brothers make it is fun and easy to read. It scores a 9 out of 10 for readability.

Recommended Audience

This book is ideal for the manager who is going to be spending the day at the airport and in flight. …


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