5 Business Lessons from Star Trek

This Thursday, May 16, 2013, is the premiere date for the new Star Trek movie, Into Darkness. In honor of this much-anticipated movie release (Yes, a company full of tech geeks is excited about a new Star Trek movie…surprise!) we have put together a number of important business lessons that can be learned from the Star Trek series.

1. Image is Important- Dress for Success

The iconic Star Trek uniform has evolved over the years, but certain aspects of it always remain constant. Namely, the continuity that it provides. There were always clear codes of dress throughout all of the different series and movies, and they all centered around two things- looking professional, and being part of a larger team.

Don’t underestimate the power of having a code of dress at your office. Small businesses tend to become very comfortable with each other very quickly, and having certain standards of dress will help maintain a professional and productive office environment.

Dressing professionally will make a big impact on your potential and current customers. For example, if two people show up for a job interview, one in a full suit and one in jeans and a hoodie sweatshirt, you will automatically place a lot more confidence in the person in the suit. They are demonstrating that they are serious about the job and that they know how to be professional. The one in the hoodie is demonstrating that he wants to be the next Mark Zuckerberg.

It is an unconcious reflex that every person has- to judge someone based on their looks and clothes. There is a reason people say that first impressions are important. Make sure your company is giving the best impression possible.

2. Surround Yourself with People Smarter than You

Kirk had Spock, Picard had Data- who do you have? The Star Trek captains had people on their crew who were not afraid to give their opinions, even when it disagreed with the captain’s. They were experts in their fields and all had different perspectives to offer- and the captain would sit and take all views under advisement.

One of the traits of a successful leader is that they tend to surround themselves with people who are smarter than they are, who know more about certain things than they do. Ultimately, it is about being able to listen to the people you hired- really listen- and then try and determine what the best course of action is for the company, even if it wasn’t your idea.

3. Stay Involved

One great trait that Kirk had was his eagerness to be part of the away-team missions. Even as captain of a starship, he always put himself out there first, willing to risk his own life before the lives of his crew members. He was never afraid to get his hands dirty

Running a business is difficult. As your company grows and becomes more successful, it is easy to forget what life is like on the front lines. And, one of the marks of a successful company is that if you as the leader of the company were to step away, the company would still run smoothly without you.

But you are still the one in charge, and it is important that every once in a while you get down in the trenches with everyone else. Remind yourself what it really takes to make this company run, and what your employees do for you and for the company every day. These reminders will help make you a better leader, which will only lead to a more successful business.

4. There IS Such a Thing as a No-Win Scenario

One of the most interesting themes throughout the original Star Trek series is the notion that Kirk does not belive in no-win scenarios, demonstrated by the situation where he reprogrammed the Kobiyashi Maru simulation while in the academy so that he could beat it. Throughout the series, it is an ideal he clings to with an unyielding passion. But ultimately, I think it is proven wrong, when in the movie Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, he decides to destroy the Enterprise (his first, and some say only, love) in order to defeat the enemy and save his crew.

Problem-solving is a big part of running a company, and it is always tempting to try and find a solution where everyone wins. The truth is though, there are going to be situations where someone will have to lose. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t try for a win-win scenario whenever possible, but know that there will be times when it doesn’t exist, and make sure you know what your priorities are.

5. You are Never Done Learning

“…its five-year mission to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to bodly go where no man has gone before.”

Iconic words of the intro to the series. There was never an episode or a movie that did not involve the crew of the Enterprise learning something new, never a situation where they did not have to learn and make decisions that lead to them being perhaps just a little bit wiser for the next encounter.

It doesn’t matter if you are pouring the coffee and making copies, or have the huge corner office- you are never done learning. You are never done growing. The minute you, or any of your employees, believes that there is nothing more to learn, no other ways to grow, that is the minute the company will fail. Encourage everyone in the company (incuding yourself) to learn as much as possible, and not just about their own department. The more everyone in the company understands about the different moving parts, the better they will be able to do their jobs, and the more successful your company will be.

Lessons in business and leadership can be found in the most unexpected places- even a sci-fi series. Don’t limit yourself to blogs and business books as the only pieces of advice for businesses.

Who are some leaders (real or fictional) that you admire? Why?

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