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The Right Kind of Crazy

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The Right Kind of Crazy

A True Story of Teamwork, Leadership and High-Stakes Innovation


15 min read
9 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

A Jet Propulsion Lab engineer describes the role of teamwork and leadership in landing a rover on Mars.

Editorial Rating



  • Eye Opening
  • Concrete Examples
  • Engaging


Jet Propulsion Lab engineer Adam Steltzner – writing with William Patrick – offers an absorbing memoir in which space’s challenges make ordinary business seem simple. Steltzner discusses facing failure, heeding your subconscious, cultivating a Zen-like beginner’s mind and tapping into your intuition. These ideas could seem like mystical hokum, except that Steltzner’s an unpretentious, honest and often funny narrator. And his ideas helped send a multibillion-dollar machine to Mars. Steltzner speaks directly to those in creative or scientific jobs and to managers who want to cultivate innovation and teamwork.


Space exploration offers leadership lessons.

When Adam Steltzner was an engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, he worked on the Galileo mission to Jupiter, the Cassini-Huygens mission to one of Saturn’s moons and the Mars Exploration Rover mission. He served as lead engineer for the portion of the mission that landed the rover Curiosity on Mars. For the Curiosity, his team had to invent and build technology that would function perfectly in that planet’s unforgiving environment.

As a lead engineer on the rover landing, Steltzner gained a range of insights on how effective teamwork and good leadership can help organizations achieve the most extraordinary goals. He suggests that even when it seems you are working with objective facts, you are really working with mental models of how those facts function in physical reality. Understanding how each team member sees reality – and detecting the psychological factors underlying those models – becomes as important as analyzing the objective data.

Jet Propulsion Lab engineer Steltzner followed a circuitous ...

About the Authors

Jet Propulsion Laboratory engineer Adam Steltzner worked on the Mars Exploration Rover project and the Mars Science Laboratory project as well as missions that included the Galileo, Cassini-Huygens and Mars Pathfinder spacecraft.

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