Exactly one hundred years ago, a French pilot named Louis Bleriot flew across the English Channel (or La Manche, as the French prefer to call it) for the first time. He flew in a rickety monoplane with a tiny engine, held together by spit and paste. Bleriot himself had been injured in an accident two weeks earlier and was limping. And he had no instruments, not even a compass.  

Clearly the attempt was foolhardly. Had he ditched in the cold choppy waters, he would not have lasted long, even if he had survived the crash. The plane was flimsy. Its axle was no thicker than a broomstick. Bleriot flew successfully from Calais to Dover. After that, orders for the planes he built poured in, mainly from countries’ armies. 

Many years later, Charles Lindbergh flew solo across the Atlantic Ocean, in the Spirit of St. Louis. It was a far longer and riskier flight. But Bleriot paved the way.   

There is a direct line from Bleriot the daring pilot to today’s innovators. Bleriot risked his life to do something no-one had done before. There was a reason. By stretching the limits of aviation, Bleriot encouraged innovators to stretch them even further. 

Today’s innovators also take bold risks. While they usually do not risk their lives, they risk years of effort and their careers, facing high odds of failure, just as Bleriot did. The same innovative spirit that drove Bleriot to fly across the English Channel drives today’s innovators, as they seek to identify unmet needs and satisfy them. As we celebrate the 100th anniversary of Bleriot’s daring flight, we can draw inspiration from him and others who pioneered and pushed the boundaries of human achievement.