How they made it

Timeline of creative process?

Inspiration: We learned of a cool rock that rolled as InSight landed. A light bulb went off.

Workflow: Each contributor -- NASA JPL, The Rolling Stones and Robert Downey Jr. -- brought creative energy and ideas to the concept.

Results: The creative process was truly as inspirational and exciting as the result. As Downey, Jr said, “This may be the most exciting thing I’ve ever done.”

You can do it too with monday.com

Webby Awards partner monday.com is so impressed with NASA Names 'Rolling Stones Rock' that they created a workflow inspired by the project!

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Tips from the Team

“Connection is key. Look for authentic story points where your mission, your collaborators and your audience converge and the work will resonate naturally.” - Stephanie L. Smith, NASAJPL Social Media Supervisor

"Our “always on” marketing goal is to create impactful experiences around music that entertain, inspire and connect." - Doug Barasch, Senior Director, Digital Marketing and Strategy, Universal Music Group

“Mars rocks! There’s magic in the intersection of science and entertainment to inspire the greater public.” - Bert Ulrich, Multimedia Liaison, NASA

"Don’t be scared of a big job. If you break it down into bite-sized pieces, you can get it done." - Carolina Carnalla-Martinez, Mars Public Engagement Manager, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

See the full team
Inspiration

NASA’s InSight lander had recently arrived on Mars, and the Rolling Stones were coming to Pasadena. How to connect them? We learned of a cool rock that rolled as InSight landed. A light bulb went off.

What was your inspiration?

NASA is always striving to reach new audiences. NASA’s InSight lander had recently arrived on Mars, and the Rolling Stones were coming to Pasadena. How to connect them?


We learned of a cool rock that rolled as InSight landed. A light bulb went off. A rock…rolling on Mars. What about naming it, “Rolling Stones Rock?” Our partners at UMG loved the idea, as did the band. The Stones invited Robert Downey Jr. to record a video to break the news. Downey upped the ante with a live on-stage announcement and teaser video that went viral. This unlikely collaboration was the perfect convergence of art & science with three of the biggest brands in the world.

How did you approach this challenge?

The culture at JPL urges us to “Dare Mighty Things.” Whether it’s landing on Mars or looking for life beyond Earth, we do what was thought to be impossible—turning science fiction into fact.


The creative process demands that teams be given permission to think big, try new things, and “fail forward.” A brainstorming session at JPL might encourage everyone to come up with three approaches to a problem, one that is “totally crazy.” The “crazy” idea may be the genesis of the next breakthrough.


Diverse teams are required to solve tough challenges, which is also a core value at JPL. Dissenting opinions are welcome. Like NASA engineers, we “find the flaw” in the interest of bettering humanity.

Workflow

We do not use a “one-size-fits-all” approach, but instead we tailor the process and workflow to the project or event.

How does your team work across capabilities and disciplines?

Communication is key to driving creative projects across the finish line. We have a team that’s multi-tasking and under deadline, so communication needs to be precise, inclusive and respectful of everyone’s time.


So when working on a big project, we have a cadence of regular meetings along with various online collaborative tools to keep everyone informed. For major events, we step up the cadence of meetings and do our own version of “operational readiness reviews,” with punch lists, rehearsals and post-show critiques.

How does your approach adapt to the needs of a project?

We do not use a “one-size-fits-all” approach, but instead we tailor the process and workflow to the project or event.


We encourage open discussion about ideas and approaches (that’s where the magic happens), capture all notes and actions in a shared document, and have various touch points and check-ins throughout the process.


During the implementation phase, everyone’s roles are clearly communicated, with real time communication using text and private audio channels.

Was there anything out-of-the-box about your approach for this project?

The word that most comes to mind is synergy.


Each contributor–NASA JPL, The Rolling Stones and Robert Downey Jr.–-brought creative energy and ideas to the concept. With each iteration, the project grew exponentially to a whole new level. It was like the proverbial lightning in a bottle, with the combined effect so much greater than what each player brought to the table. The creative process was truly as inspirational and exciting as the result. As Downey, Jr said, “This may be the most exciting thing I’ve ever done.”

How do you digitally manage your projects?

Each event or project is different, so we tailor the process and workflow fit the need and the size of the working group. The overarching goals are to be inclusive, open-minded, collaborative, and to over-communicate with attention to detail. We encourage open discussion about ideas and approaches (that’s where the magic happens), capture all notes and actions in a shared document, and have various touchpoints and check-ins throughout the process.

How is the pandemic and remote working impacting your team?

NASA knows how to work remotely, as we operate robotic explorers in the solar system and beyond. A rover driver who’s sending commands to Curiosity on Mars is now doing it from home, rather than on site. Our award-winning communications team is equally nimble and resilient.

While we miss seeing one another at work, productivity is as high or higher than it was before. In-person talks before an audience of a few hundred now reach viewers in the thousands. We are finding alternatives to what we miss most (spontaneous interactions in the hallways or cafeteria). We’re developing fun, engaging experiences to build culture and connection; Some employees say they feel more connected than before.

Results

Support and empower your team. Challenge people to think differently and back it up with resources, encouragement and praise. Recognize success.

Any advice for creative teams looking to make great digital work?

Dream big. Don’t let the naysayers get you down. Be agile, flexible and resilient. Support and empower your team.


Challenge people to think differently and back it up with resources, encouragement and praise. Recognize success. Allow people to make mistakes, as it’s part of the creative growth process.


Encourage a culture of collaboration. Welcome dissenting opinions. Embrace diversity. To solve the most challenging problems requires all hands on deck. Keep your skills fresh. Look to the outside to see how others are doing it. Stay on top of your game.

What does being named "best of the Internet" mean to you?

We deeply appreciate the recognition, though the kudos really go to the NASA engineers and scientists who “dare mighty things” to advance humanity and, in doing so, inform and inspire the world.

 

They are brilliant, dedicated, and tireless. Right now many of them are persevering toward the July 2020 launch of our aptly-named “Perseverance” Mars rover, which will help provide clues as to whether life once existed on Mars in the first leg of Mars sample return. It’s a privilege to work at NASA JPL and to tell their stories.

You can do it too with monday.com

Webby Awards partner monday.com is so impressed with NASA Names 'Rolling Stones Rock' that they created a workflow inspired by the project!

Try this template
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