How would you go from London to Paris? Chicago to Rome? How about Los Angeles to Tokyo? Chances are, most of us immediately thought of the word “plane.” However, in a world 114 years younger, that possibility was just a dream floating in the sky. Until the Wright brothers came along, of course.
The Wright brothers, Orville and Wilbur, were considered revolutionary in the early 1900s because they saw the potential for airplanes in the future, and they actually flew the first airplane (but it was a very rough design). Although this idea wasn’t theirs to begin with, their skill and creativity let them see a new design which would ultimately become the blueprint from which aerospace engineering would develop.
Similar to many other inventors, their ideas began coming to the brothers when they were little. It started with an interest in toys, especially with a helicopter that their dad gave them. It started a spark, one that continued to grow during their childhoods. Interestingly enough, Orville Wright even told this teacher that he was going to create a real helicopter just like the toy he had.
I think another interesting and relatively unknown fact about the Orville brothers is that they needed funding to continue their interests in aviation. So, after battling depression for some time, they created their own bike shops and own types of bikes, which went on to be a success for a few years until they had raised the money they needed! Keep in mind that they were competing against some of the most well-funded companies in the U.S., yet they found their footing and swung back at their lack of finances.This actually relates back to Malcolm Gladwell’s “Late Bloomers,” in which Gladwell talks about how a constant energy and inspiration are important influences for creative people. Many other famous inventors or writers did not immediately start building their inventions, but had to overcome certain difficulties and still retain their enthusiasm for creating.
The Wright brothers stand as a duo in history who were not brilliant child geniuses, but people who used a trial-by-error approach and working together with ideas from the past. In Brian Uzzi and Jarret Spiro’s “Collaboration and Creativity: The Small World Problem”, they say that creativity is spurred when different ideas are united or when “creative material in one domain inspires or forces fresh thinking in another.” If you think about it, the Wright brothers had the best of both worlds; they could both build upon their ideas and were improving on ideas that had already been proposed.
Their creativity came not from the idea, how how the idea was executed. After many trial and error experiments, much observation of a bird’s mechanisms of flight, and improvements on previous mathematicians’ theories on how large the wings should be in proportion to the body, the Wright brothers found success. I would argue that it takes a different type of creative process to refute statistics and ideas that had been agreed on by many experts, improve it, and then come up with an original design that works! This is just one of many examples of how creativity isn’t spurred by following the rules (not that I’m recommending anyone break the law). Creativity comes from one’s instincts and ideas, especially by acting on these ideas again and again, even if they fail at first. Without the blueprint of a successful airplane, many things might not be possible today (or they might have been delayed). The Wright brothers provided an important blueprint for not just airplanes, but many developments in aerospace engineering. I mean, if all creative inventors allowed their ideas to be suppressed or rejected, where would we be today?