Saturday, October 10, 2020

Be Bold; be brave; be calculating

I would hardly think today of making my first flight on a strange machine in a 27-mile wind . . .

I look with amazement upon our audacity in attempting flights with a new and untried machine under such circumstances.

Yet faith in our calculations and the design of the first machine, based upon our tables of air pressures, secured by months of careful laboratory work, and confidence in our system of control … had convinced us that the machine was capable of lifting and maintaining itself in the air

— Orville Wright, from “How We Made the First Flight” (*)

I hope you were able to read the last sentence, as long as it is -- my editor would have been apocalyptic!

So, what have we got here with O.Wright's statement that can inform project management?

He begins with audacity! Audacity: "a willingness to take bold risks"
To be audacious! Audacity is a risk attitude that is at first personal, but then infects the whole project culture.

But not recklessly bold risks. Audacious is one thing; willful recklessness is entirely different.

Then comes the skill and science

So then comes the science, the engineering, and the risk management to leaven the audacity. Afterall, as we learn from author Jo Nesbo, "Someone will no doubt come up with an opinion with the benefit of hindsight, but we prefer to be wise in foresight".

In this case, wisdom in foresight requires:

  • Calculations and tables of metrics
  • Careful laboratory work
  • Confidence in the system engineering
  • Measurable goal: capable of lifting maintaining itself in air

And what does the world get with this elixir of bold thinking, careful consideration of risk, and skill-and-science?

  • Heavy machines that fly
  • Semiconductors of near atomic size
  • Electric, hydrogen, and possibly others that upend the transportation industry
  • Social media
  • Private space travel
  • And all the other stuff yet to be envisioned!

(*) Quotation courtesy of Herding Cats


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