Cutting-Edge vs Bleeding-Edge – Which takes flight?

Most people will say that they’re on the “cutting edge” when they participate in the next big thing.

It’s brand new when something is cut – a never before made mark, into a particular thing or industry. But a cut can only be made once. What follows is what we call the bleeding edge – new ideas and developments beginning to trickle from the cut.

On December 17th, 1903, the Wright brothers successfully flew the first-ever engine-powered glider, having adapted a previous model of an unpowered glider, which they based on another they had previously tested in 1900.

Most of us would likely say and agree to the powered glider being a cutting-edge event, followed by the bleeding edge of all the new possibilities that could now be expanded upon with a working proof of concept.

But most of us may be wrong. The glider was not a cutting-edge innovation.

Records of a man attempting flight with glider-type contraptions go back to 1st century China, funded by emperor Wang Mang. The contraptions included ones such as men being dressed in feather suits jumping from cliffs and towers – most of them dying in the process.

Through thousands of iterations over many centuries the next big step occurred in 1488 when Da Vinci first put to paper an envisioning of what he thought could become a successful design for human-powered flight. Centuries later, a scale model of an adapted Da Vinci glider was built in 1807 by Sir George Cayley. Nearly 100 years after that, adapting Sir Cayley’s work, the Wright brothers develop powered flight – in 1903. Now, 118 years later, we use further adaptations of the same principle – the 1st Century’s vision of human flight.

This timeline is an example showing just how mistaken we can be when we claim to be on the cutting edge.

The true cutting edge is combining an entirely new dream with enough belief to convince 2.5% of innovators to put in the work.

All that comes after, is the flow of new adaptations – the bleeding edge.

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