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  • Mark P Stevens

Learning is...like the Wright Brothers.


Orville and Wilber Wright are famous as the inventors of the flying machine. A new book by David McCullough illuminates one of the little known reasons. And that reason maps to a mistake also made by some learning programs. Huh? Stay with me and I'll 'splain.

Many working on the problem of powered flight were concentrating on propulsion. How to launch the plane into the air. Few gave as much thought to controlling it once it was up there. You will see their result in the funny old films of planes launching and immediately crashing to earth.

McCullough explains the Wright brothers saw it as a problem of equilibrium not propulsion. Once in the air how would they maintain control in flight, turn, rise and fall, and land softly. Orville and Wilber felt once they mastered this issue, it would be easy to add power to get into the air. It led to their technique of wing warping to maintain control, a version of which is still used in airplanes today.

And no wonder they thought this way - it was the same issue as the bicycle. Riding a bike is all about equilibrium, maintaining control once launched. They were bicycle mechanics and dealt with it daily. It was no accident they took this tact. And the rest is history.

How does that map to learning programs? How many times have you seen corporate implementations all about "the launch." Lots of marketing/executive time is spent on the launch. Parties, balloons, and company wide roll out meetings, yet, little thought has been given to how to maintain the progam once it's "in the air." As business conditions change or new scholarship is introduced the program needs to be constantly updated. How many learning interventions have you seen on the scrap heap because they were not maintained and so became irrelevant quickly. Nothing was in the plans to maintain equilibrium - to keep pace with new technolgies or scholarship as time passed.

It's a good lesson to keep from looking like those funny old movies of contraptions that launch with great pomp and fanfare, only to fall to earth quickly. Better to figure out how to maintain equilibrium first, like the Wright brothers, then power can be added to launch.

Have you seen similar in other integrations or projects?

#learning #strategicplanning

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