Failure and Innovation: Two concepts with a lot of overlap

Great inventions are the result of hard work, which we often hear, but also of resilience to keep trying after failing.On my walks to work I’m listening to The Wright Brothers by David McCullough and boning up on my aviation and Dayton knowledge. I’m also gaining appreciation for the amount of failure that laid the groundwork for flight. So. Much. Failure. And that, by the way, I mean as a compliment.

Man’s ability to fly reshaped the world as we know it. It means we can travel to more places more quickly. It means we can transfer goods and services more easily. It means we can bomb the crap out of somewhere from the air.

I don’t know that I can prioritize one of those over the other.

To get to this place where we can hop in a plane and deliver ourselves, our product or our bombs, two brothers from Ohio tried out a lot of things. They withstood a ton of mockery from people who thought they were wackadoo. I’m listening to McCullough’s reading of this book and grimacing at some of the crash stories. The only way to find out if a plane will hold you and be steered by you is to try it out. And if it doesn’t work? You’re nose-diving into a sand dune in Kitty Hawk.

A running thought I’ve been having throughout The Wright Brothers is that the story of failure is an excellent one. Great inventions are the result of hard work, which we often hear, but also of resilience to keep trying after failing.  That’s not a new notion for me, but it’s not one I hear a lot about.

I would love if more stories about inventions and innovations include details about what was tried and flopped. I want the more detail that “she labored for a year until it worked.” I want the celebration of failure. It’s what gives me, all of us, permission to fail and encouragement to keep chugging along.

Because eventually, the plane takes off and the world is changed.

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