The Right Kind of Crazy | Adam Steltzner

Summary of: The Right Kind of Crazy: A True Story of Teamwork, Leadership, and High-Stakes Innovation
By: Adam Steltzner


Embark on an exhilarating journey with Adam Steltzner through his experiences as a lead engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, chronicled in the book ‘The Right Kind of Crazy: A True Story of Teamwork, Leadership, and High-Stakes Innovation’. Delve into the insights Steltzner gained on effective teamwork, leadership, and the significance of mental models while working on groundbreaking projects like landing the rover Curiosity on Mars. Discover how embracing doubt, exploring the unknown, and fostering a culture of open communication can lead to innovative breakthroughs, even in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges.

Achieving Extraordinary Goals

Adam Steltzner’s book, The Right Kind of Crazy, details his experience as the lead engineer for NASA’s Curiosity rover landing on Mars and emphasizes the importance of effective teamwork and leadership in achieving extraordinary goals. Steltzner stresses the significance of human factors such as communication and understanding each team member’s mental models in addition to analyzing objective data. He believes that success or failure depends not only on technology but also on how well a team functions together. Through his personal experience, Steltzner offers valuable insights on how teams can work together to accomplish the seemingly impossible.

The Unlikely Journey from Music to Mars

Adam Steltzner’s passion for science set him on a path that led to an exceptional engineering career in space exploration. Despite a lackluster academic beginning, he transformed himself through hard work and found a fascination for physics. At JPL, he pursued his Ph.D. while working as a lead engineer on the Mars Science Laboratory mission. His success in landing the Curiosity rover on Mars exemplifies his commitment to teamwork and the pursuit of knowledge. Steltzner’s journey inspires others to believe in their potential and follow their passions.

Embracing Failure

Steltzner’s advice on how fear of failure can lead to incomplete solutions and the importance of asking necessary questions before rushing to seize a solution.

Steltzner’s experience as an undergraduate taught him about the negative impacts of fear of failing. Being driven by worry, you tend to embrace a premature solution without necessarily asking relevant questions about the problem and taking enough time to contemplate its complexities. This results in an incomplete solution that fails to address the underlying issues. Steltzner emphasizes that offering your opinion in the absence of an invitation and taking risks while learning from the outcome is essential for growth. Don’t let the fear of failing deter you from taking the time to understand the problem and craft a thoughtful solution.

Embracing Doubt for Innovation

The book suggests embracing doubt and staying calm in the face of uncertainty to generate creative solutions without making assumptions. Being curious is key in the nonlinear process of innovation.

Speak Up and Lead

Valuable team members share opinions, even when not asked. Steltzner’s experience on the Champollion mission taught him that offering insights, breaking down problems, and identifying key components is crucial for effective teamwork. By serving the team with their best performance and guidance, team members can become leaders without bossing others around. As Steltzner explains, all great works are team efforts; therefore, sharing ideas and input is essential for success.

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