I 1959 oprettet den britiske industriherren Henry Kremer en pris på £50,000 til den første som bygget et fly som kunne fly i åttetallsformasjon rundt to markører med nær en kilometers avstand. Eneste krav var at flyet kun ble drevet av pilotens egen kraft, altså ingen annen motorløsning tillatt. I de neste 17 årene som fulgte var det over 50 offisielle forsøk hvorav ingen var i nærheten av å lykkes.
Det var først når aerodynamiker Paul MacCready i 1977 kastet seg over utfordringen det ble vei i vellinga. Etter å ha studert de 50 feilslåtte forsøkene gikk det opp for ham: «Problemet er at vi ikke forstår problemet.»
Denne UXmag artikkelen diskuterer hva han egentlig mente med dette.
MacCready’s insight was that everyone working on solving human-powered flight would spend upwards of a year building an airplane on conjecture and theory without the grounding of empirical tests. Triumphantly, they’d complete their plane and wheel it out for a test flight. Minutes later, a year’s worth of work would smash into the ground. Even in successful flights, a couple hundred meters later the flight would end with the pilot physically exhausted. With that single new data point, the team would work for another year to rebuild, retest, relearn. Progress was slow for obvious reasons, but that was to be expected in pursuit of such a difficult vision. That’s just how it was.
The problem was the problem. Paul realized that what we needed to be solved was not, in fact, human-powered flight. That was a red herring. The problem was the process itself, and along with it the blind pursuit of a goal without a deeper understanding how to tackle deeply difficult challenges. He came up with a new problem that he set out to solve: how can you build a plane that could be rebuilt in hours, not months. And he did. He built a plane with Mylar, aluminum tubing, and wire.