How Two Bike Mechanics Used Creativity to Beat the US Government

It would seem against all odds that two bicycle mechanics could beat the heavily funded government projects to develop flight at the turn of the 20th Century.

However, it was exactly their bicycling experience that gave the Wright Brothers the creative edge over all the other efforts.

The Wright Brothers did not invent the airplane.

Many planes were flying before the Wright Brothers first takeoff at Kitty Hawk. The problem was that those airplanes were flying up into the blue sky, and then smack down into the brown ground.

The Wright brothers are famous because they used creativity to invent the controls that kept their airplanes in the sky, and allowed their planes to climb, descend, bank, turn, and stay on course to a safe landing.

Wright Brothers

They used a fundamental technique of great creative minds, they borrowed their ideas (Picasso’s Secret to Creativity).  In this case they borrowed from bicycling, and from the birds.

Go for a bike ride, and you will feel what the Wright brothers felt every day as they tested bikes in their shop. You control a bike by shifting your weight right and left to keep your bike upright and on course.

BicycleThis is where the Wright Brothers got the idea to use a shifting carriage (like a small bed) to twist the wings on their airplane to keep it on a straight course.

They also observed that birds used their tails to steer their flight up and down, and that is how they designed the elevator control that is still used on the tail of all airplanes today when you pivot skyward or toward the ground.

Bird FlyingThe next time that you fly, remember many of the control concepts (but, not the “small bed” because for pilots, there is no sleeping on the job) that the Wright Brothers created will guide your plane safely through the sky.

Boeing 747 Jet Aircraft

  • Ford

    Not only were the Wrights creative, they were persistently curious and tough-minded geniuses, while experimenting and worked on their own deadlines while also growing a successful bike manufacturing business. (Can you say, “Able to keep lots of balls in the air at the same time?”) They notably had also foregone romance and family life.

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