I am writing this as I sit inside the cabin of a Delta Boeing 767-400ER passenger jet from London to Detroit to facilitate a 4-day strategy alignment workshop. It still amazes me, after more than 35 years as a frequent flier, that this massive hunk of metal can leap off the ground and stay aloft for over 8 hours while inside the cabin we all go about our lives, reading, watching movies, talking to each other, even having a meal.
I wonder, did Orville and Wilbur Wright visualize all this? Better yet, did they really know what they were doing at all? They weren’t aeronautical engineers; they ran a bicycle shop in Dayton, Ohio. They fixed motors on the side. They weren’t successful serial entrepreneurs. They didn’t have MBA degrees from MIT or Harvard. So if they didn’t have degrees or aeronautical know-how, just what did they have that allowed them to build the first airplane capable of sustained maned flight and ultimately change the world?
They had commitment. Tenacity, gumption, stick- to-it’ness, singular focus, burning desire, pig-headedness. Whatever you call it, they had it, and they applied their commitment against some pretty big difficulties. For one, there were no test facilities, so they built their own wind tunnel, and their own models to test in it. There were no blueprints for guaranteed success. Only a burning desire to fly and a commitment to do whatever it took to solve the problems of sustained human flight.
Today we have all of kinds of things; computer models, business models, knowledge at the click of a keyboard, mentors, coaches, teachers, best-selling books on leadership secrets of the great and the good. We have more than enough stuff, except the “Wright” stuff. Commitment.
I am talking about the commitment to attack a persistent, challenging problem, even though we don’t have a clue how to solve it when we start. I contend that too many worthy challenges go unsolved because we don’t have the know how. Many people back off from big problems saying they don’t have the right skills, the experience, the education, the money. The Wright brothers didn’t have know-how in aeronautics, but they did have commitment.
Every time I see costly project overruns or abandoned strategic initiatives, I usually find lack of commitment, lack of desire, lack of burning passion. As the Wright Brothers taught us, real problem solving takes a little know-how and a great deal of raw commitment.
Tight Lines . . . (by the way, it was a smooth flight all the way!)
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