On October 9th, 1903, the New York Times read as follows…
“The ridiculous fiasco which attended the attempt at aerial navigation in the Langley flying machine was not unexpected.”
This segment was in response to a failed aeronautics experiment by Samuel Langley. He had attempted the first sustained, manned flight. The U.S. army saw the potential in his endeavors but the media was merciless.
The New York Times predicted, “If it requires, say, a thousand years to fit for easy flight a bird which started with rudimentary wings…it might be assumed that the flying machine which will really fly might be evolved by the combined and continuous efforts of mathematicians and mechanicians in from one million to ten million years.”
But, funny enough, the history buffs reading this may recognize the year 1903.
That was the same year that brothers Orville and Wilbur Wright oversaw the first manned flight – an innovation that proved the concept and birthed the aero industry.
In fact, not only did the first flight take place the same year the New York Times predicted we wouldn’t see flight for at least another million, but the brothers flew only nine weeks after that forecast.
I love this story – I love it because of how clearly it distinguishes the two kinds of people in the world…
- Those who see the world like it has been and is now, and
- Those who see the world as it could be.
As leaders, we find ourselves in the middle of a unique balance. We must see things as they are to see how they could be – but we can never allow how things are to keep us from seeing how they could be. Leaders are called to see the unseen and make it real. Our vision goes beyond what lies before our eyes and what has been done before.
Solving tomorrow’s problems means thinking tomorrow’s thoughts. We must step away from the mindset that reinforces management, maintenance, stability, scarcity, and toward a mindset of experimentation, novelty, originality, and ultimately, creation.
What are the 3 things that keep us from that creative zone?
- Finding the “right” answer. We can be so preoccupied with finding the best answer that we never get to an answer. Nearly every problem has more than one answer, and you have to have a result to improve a result. If we get hung up on getting it perfectly right the first time, we may put so much pressure on ourselves that we never even try.
- Thinking, “That’s not logical.” Creation does not have to make total sense right off the bat. When we think creatively, we are not engaging in a brain-led process, so naturally, our brains may not evaluate the idea properly at first. Albert Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination enriches the world.”
- Following the rules. The New York Times was not the only publication to criticize the pursuit of aerial navigation. Two years earlier, the North American Review featured an article by the engineer-in-chief of the U.S. Navy which regarded manned flight as a “vain fantasy,” in the words of Shakespeare. Where might we be if the Wright brothers had abided by the “rules” of their time?
Create something this week. Take a look at a process or product or plan and ask questions. Evaluate, analyze, and then envision something better that does not yet exist; allow yourself to be inspired and hold back no solutions or innovations that come to mind. You might just give your organization its next soaring success.
That’s all for now,
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