It has been 5 years since Curiosity landed on Mars and NASA is celebrating sharing videos like this one.
For the Spring 2017 7x24 Exchange Conference Adam Steltzner presented
The Right Kind of Crazy: A True Story of Teamwork, Leadership and High Stakes Innovation
I've been staring at my notes and thinking about the keynote for months and it just wasn't coming together. Adam's keynote was one of the highest rated keynotes given and I agree. Part of the reason why the presentation worked is because Adam was not super polished the way some presenters can be. He came across as an engineer who had a passion to solve the tough problem of landing a one ton vehicle on Mars.
After months of trying to write. Yes I kept on trying for months, but it didn't work and the words didn't flow. The story Adam was telling is of being creative in problem solving. How to land Curiosity on the Mars surface. What the team knew is trying to use what had worked in the past was not going to work for a 900kg payload.
Going over my notes here are some pointsAdam made which is why his presentation was so popular.
Adam described leadership as a service. In comparison to a project management approach which doesn't necessarily focus on leadership skills to rally the team to solve a difficult problem.
Adam would wake 2:30a. Run the risks is his head. Then figure out how it impacts the project.
Much of the data came from failure analysis of past efforts which may not of compromised past missions, but could be catastrophic for Curiosity.
To innovate and rise to the challenge in a mission critical environment Adam stressed to "separate the ideas from the people who hold them." Getting his team to accept the intense review of ideas was key to be creative.
Why did it all work?
Adam switched to "Hold on to the doubt!" Constantly accept that they may not be right.
"Planning is everything. The plan means nothing."
"The process of planning is preparation for the future."
"Falling in love with the plan bypasses the truth."
"Why do we do this?" Adam says this while staring at the image of Curiosity on Mars.
Adam's keynote is one of those that sticks with you and I know others will refer to his presentation. These are the type of keynotes that have lasting value and help all of us be better.