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Innovation on demand? Creative leadership? NASA's moon landing got there first.

Author of The Big Thirst and One Giant Leap

Charles Fishman | Author of The Big Thirst and One Giant Leap
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Today’s Digital Revolution. It Started With NASA (2:34)

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A Lifetime of Teamwork Got Us to the Moon (7:29)

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Cracking Open the World with a Silly Question (18:09)

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How Did We Pull Off the Moon Landing? (2:30)

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Why Failures Leading up to the Moon Landing Were a Gift (5:28)

Lavin Exclusive Speaker

The moon landing didn’t just inspire a nation—it proved that, with the right leadership, we can solve complex problems and innovate quickly and under pressure. In his New York Times bestseller One Giant LeapCHARLES FISHMAN explains how NASA rose to the impossible challenge set before them—inventing both space travel and modern project management. In talks, Fishman applies the revolutionary lessons of Apollo 11 to today’s urgent problems in business, education, and public life.

When JFK proposed the moon mission, NASA had no rockets, no computer that could navigate there, and certainly no spacesuits for the astronauts to wear. Yet eight years later, the American flag was firmly planted at Tranquility Base. The space race marked the most ambitious, most urgent, and most public project the world had ever seen. To get the job done not only required herculean effort, but bold leadership, creativity, discipline, and the teamwork of an entire country. In One Giant Leap, acclaimed New York Times bestselling author Charles Fishman explains how NASA managed 400,000 people over the course of eight years, without once losing sight of their goal—no matter how daunting it seemed.

Drawing from his years of original research, Fishman dives into the notion of “innovation on-demand:” Can we simply invent what we don’t know? And can we do it on a deadline? A budget? NASA narrowed in on the country’s shared—albeit, unprecedented—goal to create a culture of accountability, trust, autonomy, and community that fueled the project onward. Using the space agency’s unique management model as a blueprint, Fishman shows audiences that creativity does not have to be stifled by process, nor mired in bureaucracy. Intriguing, dramatic, and awe-inspiring, the moon landing undoubtedly makes for a great story, but it offers even more valuable lessons: how to unite in times of crises, how to think about human potential, and how to solve problems big and small. As the world once again faces large, complex, seemingly insurmountable challenges, we turn to mankind’s greatest achievement to guide us through.

Fishman—a three-time winner of the prestigious Gerald Loeb Award for Distinguished Business and Financial Journalism—is a renowned investigative and explanatory journalist, and no stranger to NASA. He spent six months covering the Challenger space shuttle disaster as a national reporter for The Washington Post, and has reported on space ever since, for The Atlantic, Fast Company, and Smithsonian. Fishman is also the author of The Wal-Mart Effect, the New York Times bestseller that was the first book to get inside Wal-Mart and explain how the world’s largest company really works. He is also the author of The Big Thirst: The Secret Life and Turbulent Future of Water, the bestselling book about water in a generation, chosen as a common read for a dozen schools and universities. Fishman is a contributor to The AtlanticFast Company, and Smithsonian, and is also the co-author of the #1 New York Times bestseller, A Curious Mind, about the power of curiosity, with Hollywood producer Brian Grazer.


We had an amazing session with Charles and our global leadership team. Our thinking is often too linear — learning about Apollo showed us how to frame our Unilever ‘moonshots.’ By reaching for the Moon, we ultimately fast-tracked our own digital revolution.

Unilever HomeCare Worldwide

We have had the pleasure of having Charles Fishman speak at two different events over the past 8 years. He was so popular with 'The Big Thirst,' we just had to bring him back. The Apollo moon landing story was the perfect way to start the last day of the conference, delivered in a riveting, enthusiastic and fun manner that earned the talk one of the highest rated keynotes we have had in 18 years. Thank you Charles!

Environmental Services Association of Alberta

Charles was a rock star. The executive committee enjoyed breakfast with him, and his talk went over very well. The Q&A could have gone on for way longer! He also did a book signing with a local bookseller. All in all, a great keynote, and an even better guy. Super nice, pleasant and fun to be with. He was very complimentary of our group but he may say nice things to all the kids!


Charles’ lecture was a tremendous success, I have received numerous comments from our patrons on how informative and engaging his lecture was. They particularly appreciated his ability and efforts to connect his lecture to Saratoga Springs and the time and research he did to help make it more relatable to them. He was wonderful to work with and we were so pleased to have him in Saratoga!

Saratoga Performing Arts Center

Speech Topics

Doing the Impossible, In Impossible Times(We’ve Done It Before)
When President John Kennedy told the nation, and the world, that America was going to the Moon in May 1961, the United States had a total of 15 minutes of human space travel experience. What Kennedy promised was, at that moment, impossible. We didn’t have the computers, the rockets, the spaceships, the spacesuits, or the space coffee to get there. But just 100 months later, Armstrong and Aldrin were bouncing around on the Moon.
The race to the Moon is the ultimate example of three critical things:
• Determination against daunting odds
• The power of entrepreneurship inside a big project
• The inspiration that comes from ordinary people accomplishing extraordinary things
Fishman tells the story from a completely original perspective, focusing on the individual scientists, engineers, and even factory workers who made it possible for us to get to the Moon. Vivid and memorable, these stories are a reminder of how important individuals are to the success of a big undertaking. This talk brings the Moon mission to life, in all its urgency and adventurousness, and shows us how the revolutionary lessons of going to the Moon are exactly the lessons and the inspiration we need right now, to tackle some of our biggest problems: whether that’s facing the climate crisis, reimagining healthcare, or bouncing back from the coronavirus pandemic.
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Climate Crisis
The Big SplashHow Water Will Shape Our Future
The next decade will be a decade of water—too much water, too little water; water in unexpected places, and at unexpected times. Water will shape what we eat, and whether we eat at all; it will determine if we’re healthy, sick, or, even, alive; and it will define both the success of our economies and the security of our cities. Water is going to be the most important and most contentious resource for almost every country in the world, even in places like the United States, where it has typically been abundant, safe, and inexpensive. Within the next 50 years, water will become a source of conflict between countries, a competitive issue among companies, and will require a whole new way of thinking for everyone on the planet.
Charles Fishman, author of the most influential water book in a generation, The Big Thirst, has circled the globe to find the people tackling and solving water problems—from the sheep farms of Australia, to the slums of Delhi, to the high-tech factories of the United States. Here, he delivers a talk that is at once energizing and reassuring: every water problem that exists has been solved, says Fishman. The key to tackling these issues, no matter what you’re facing, is seeing the problem clearly. The hardest part? Surprisingly, it isn’t money, or technology, or even water itself—it’s people. We will need to dramatically reconsider the impact of water on how we live—rain and snow; flooding, sea-level rise, and drought; and how our utilities, our companies, and our farms, ports, and highways work.
From the winter storms in Texas to the firestorms that have swept California, Fishman shows how water challenges will touch each of us, and also how tackling those problems can create both a competitive advantage and a critical sense of security. Powerfully packed with insight, this talk reveals that the industries, organizations, and communities that see the tumultuous future of water, and prepare for it, will be the ones that thrive.
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