Everything I Need to Know About Business I Learned From Star Trek
With apologies to Robert Fulghum, kindergarten isn't the only place to learn things that apply broadly to adult life. Fortunately, business managers and owners alike have an even better model for business success in the exploits of the space-faring crews of Star Trek.
1. Be at the center of the battle. No self-respecting Star Trek captain lolled on the bridge when there was a disaster to avert or an away mission to lead. It's such a part of Star Trek canon that sci-fi writer John Scalzi wrote a whole book parodying the phenomenon. If you need to find Kirk or Archer at a moment's notice, go to where the action is.
Takeaway: As a manager, your chief job is to delegate, but your effort and presence at the right time can mean the difference between success and failure.
2. Hire people who are smarter than you. Kirk had Spock. Janeway had Tuvok. Picard had Data. Starfleet captains are highly intelligent, highly trained specialists, but every single one has a close and trusted officer on board they know is even smarter and more capable. When a captain runs into a situation that's beyond his mental abilities, somebody with the capacity to figure it out is right there on the bridge.
Takeaway: It's tough on the ego to not be the smartest person in the room, but great for business. Hire people specifically because they're smarter and more capable than you are. It will give you a huge advantage over leaders whose egos can't take the hit.
3. Know your enemy. Whether it's Archer learning about the Xindi or Spock telling Kirk that Khan thinks in two dimensions, understanding the adversary has saved more than one Starfleet vessel. What's more, dozens of episodes center around learning information about a potential enemy that avoids armed conflict altogether. It's part of the five-year mission, after all.
Takeaway: Do your research, and do it well. Whether you're looking at the competition, a new market or your own processes, the more you know, the more opportunities you'll find for victory.
4. Trust your advisers. Star Trek captains didn't just have somebody smarter than them in their inner circles ... each one had an adviser who didn't mind speaking up when he disagreed with his captain. In many episodes, heeding that advice turned out to be the decision that saved the ship.
Takeaway: Don't just surround yourself with "yes-men." You hire your team members for their knowledge and expertise. Though it's valuable to expect your staff to earn your respect, listen to their opinions when they bring them to you.
5. Learn to love the big chair. The "big chair" took different forms on different ships, but it always had pride of place. Some later iterations of the Star Trek franchise even joked about it by putting junior officers in command during special situations. The big chair was a symbol of authority and accomplishment, and sitting in it was a way of celebrating both.
Takeaway: It's never the right move to abuse your position as a boss, but it's perfectly okay to enjoy the perks that come with the job. If you don't, what's the point of taking on all the extra stress of being in charge?
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