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The Right Kind of Crazy
February 19, 2016
About the Author — Adam Stelzner is an engineer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. He worked on several flight missions, including Galileo, Cassini, and Mars Pathfinder, and the Mars Exploration Rover project. He was the phase lead and development manager for the Mars Science Laboratory and the Curiosity rover’s Entry, Descent, and Landing phase; he also helped design, build, and test the Sky Crane landing system. He lives in Pasadena, California.
About the Book — The Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) is home to some of history’s most jaw-dropping feats of engineering. When NASA needed to land Curiosity—a 2,000-pound, $2.5 billion rover—on the surface of Mars, 140 million miles away, they turned to JPL. Steltzner’s team couldn’t test their kooky solution, the Sky Crane. They were on an unmissable deadline, and the world would be watching when they succeeded—or failed.
At the helm of this effort was an unlikely rocket scientist and accidental leader, Adam Steltzner. After barely graduating from high school, he followed his curiosity to the local community college to find out why the stars moved. Soon he discovered an astonishing gift for math and physics. After getting his Ph.D. he ensconced himself within JPL, NASA’s decidedly unbureaucratic cousin, where success in a mission is the only metric that matters.
The Right Kind of Crazy is a first-person account of innovation that is relevant to anyone working in science, art, or technology. For instance, Steltzner describes:
- How his team learned to switch from fear-based to curiosity-based decision making
- How to escape “The Dark Room”—the creative block caused by fear, uncertainty, and the lack of a clear path forward
- How to tell when we’re too in love with our own ideas to be objective about them—and, conversely, when to fight for them
- How to foster mutual respect within teams while still bashing bad ideas
The Right Kind of Crazy is a book for anyone who wants to channel their craziness into creativity, balance discord and harmony, and find a signal in a flood of noise.