As a boy growing up in Boulder, I attended a wonderful school named Burke Elementary. An amazing place, staffed with passionate, dedicated teachers, and named for a great American, Admiral Arleigh Burke. Admiral Burke used to visit our school once a year, and he made a big impression on me. Why? Because he was kind and attentive to us kids, but also because his nickname was "31-knot Burke". That caught my attention! Here's where Burke's moniker came from, per Wikipedia:
He usually pushed his destroyers to just under boiler-bursting speed, but while en route to a rendezvous prior to the Battle of Cape St. George a boiler casualty to USS Spence
(a jammed boiler tube brush used for cleaning) limited his squadron to
31 knots, rather than the 34+ they were otherwise capable of.
Thereafter, his nickname was "31-knot Burke," originally a taunt, later a
popular symbol of his hard-charging nature.
That idea of charging ahead, going that extra distance in order to make things happen, really struck a chord with me. You can call it "hurdling", as my colleague Tom Kelly does in The Ten Faces of Innovation, or you might call it being entrepreneurial — doing the most with whatever resources you have at hand — or you can say it's about having true grit: to me these all describe the same worldview, one where effort does indeed equal results, where you can make your own luck, where putting forth that extra bit of energy is what elevates the winners. For folks engaged in the art and science of bringing cool stuff to life, it's an essential attitude and skillset to carry in your quiver.
Back to the Nissan DeltaWing, which will go down as my big point of obsession and inspiration for the year 2012. Here's what happened to the DeltaWing on Wednesday while practicing for this weekend's 1000 mile endurance race:
In case you're wondering, getting clobbered with a 7G hit by an errant green Porsche 911 (not a good example of how to drive a 911, by the way) officially qualifies as an unexpected speedbump in the best-laid plans. Fortunately only the car was hurt. But, the car was a wreck, and qualifying was only a day away. What do you do? The DeltaWing crew decided to 31-knot it with a truly epic repair session. They worked through the entire night and the next day brought forth a rejuvenated DeltaWing car:
In the spirit of Arleigh Burke, I hereby propose the addition of a new verb to the English language: deltawing.
Deltawing. As in, "Things went totally wrong, but we pulled the team together and decided to deltawing it". Or, "I didn't think I had anything left, but I deltawinged, and that saw me through." To deltawing means to stick with your goals and beliefs even in the face of great adversity and calamity. It's a verb which all innovators need to know how to put into action.
If you're trying to be innovative, you will fail. You will fail many times. How will you respond? Your only choice has got to be to deltawing.