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Orville and Wilbur Wright - Creativity and InnovationOrville and Wilbur Wright - Creativity and Innovation


Orville (1871-1948) and Wilbur (1867-1912) Wright

American inventors of the aeroplane.

Their first human powered flight took place at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, on December 17, 1903.

 Orville is pictured right and Wilbur below.

Orville and Wilbur Wright - Creativity and Innovation


Why were they so creative?


1. Vision and challenge

They were obsessed with the dream of people flying, inspired by a flying toy, powered by rubber bands, given to them by their father in 1878.

Their audacity and skill made their dream come true.

“I look with amazement upon our audacity in attempting flights with a new and untried machine”, Orville said.


2. Problem solving

They found a solution to the problem of flying through: 


a) passion for purpose

They were obsessed with the dream of flying that had foxed people for centuries (see point 1).


b) learning

(see point 3)

They considered everything they needed to fly, particularly:

  • pilot control.

  • wings.

  • engine. 

Other flying pioneers just concentrated on developing powerful engines.


c) innovation

They developed a 

  • lightweight engine .

  • 6 ft. wind tunnel (to test the aeroplane’s aerodynamics)

The wind tunnel:

  • told them a long, narrow wing was best (they tested 200 different wing shapes).

  • helped them to design a pair of 8ft. wooden propellers.


3. Learning

They learned from:

 Orville and Wilbur Wright - Creativity and Innovation

a) their bicycle shop 

(in Dayton, Ohio, pictured right) 

This gave them important design and engineering skills,


b) research


By the mid-1890’s, Wilbur was reading any book or research paper he could find about human flight.

 Orville and Wilbur Wright - Creativity and Innovation

c) aviators’ successes and failures

(particularly the crucial importance of pilot control from gliding pioneers like the German, Otto Lilienthal, pictured right).


d) experience and observation

Birds taught them about turning through wing movement.

Valuable lessons were learned from a pilotless, powered flying machine with a 5 foot wingspan, which they built in 1899 with wood, wire and cloth.

 Orville and Wilbur Wright - Creativity and Innovation

3. Perseverance

Their first historic flight is pictured - Wilbur is on the right and Orville the pilot.

This resulted from:

  • years of hard work in their workshop. 
  • constant failure and disappointment.
  • gliding experiments at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.

They then built two other planes in 1904 and 1905 before gaining a patent on their design in 1906.


  • had to sue other aviators who copied their ideas,
  • fought hard for sales contracts with the American army and a French company. 
  • didn’t receive recognition until a public demonstration in 1908, when they became world famous overnight.
  • continued developing their aeroplane (despite an accident soon after the public demonstration in which a passenger was killed and Orville badly injured).  



5. Enthusiasm

They were spurred on by the thrill of being the first people to fly.

 Orville and Wilbur Wright - Creativity and Innovation

6. Teamwork

Wilbur had the brains (a skating injury stopped him going to Yale University).

But Orville was the leader, pilot and driving force of the partnership.

Their bicycle shop employee, Charlie Taylor (pictured right), also became an important member of their team, helping the brothers to build their first aircraft engine.



Key quotes on creativity (Orville Wright)

If we worked on the assumption that what is accepted as true really is true, then there would be little hope for advance.

We were lucky enough to grow up in an environment where there was always much encouragement to children ... to investigate what ever aroused curiosity


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