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Star Trek vs. Star Wars, HR’s perspective

Star Trek

Seven of Nine

Star Trek vs. Star Wars

In 1964, Roddenberry drafted a proposal for a series that combined the popular Western genre of the time, with Gulliver’s travels and morality issues. Roddenberry wanted to show that the human race was improving. He wanted to expand the imagination to show what was possible, not what was impossible. You are probably asking yourself, “What does Star Trek have to do with HR?”

Working in technology there is a fairly common question/debate:  Star Trek vs. Star Wars? With no explanation needed, referring to these two titles as a question implies “which of the two do you like more?”  That is an easy question for me. “Seven of Nine!” “Seven of Nine!” Did I mention Seven of Nine? I enjoyed both Star Trek and Star Wars growing up, but as an HR guy, the vote goes to Star Trek.  Beyond Jerry Ryan from the Voyager series, my money is on Gene Roddenberry and Captain Jean Luc Picard. In my opinion, Roddenberry had amazing vision and Picard is a great example of a technology CEO. He is a leader all HR practitioners should relate to.

I am sure others have said this in the past, but I believe that Star Trek is our generation’s version of Aesop Fables.  Themes revolving around equality, morality and sexism to name just a few could inspire you to think about life. Star Trek didn’t just get you to think about life, it inspired you to think outside the box. There was an idea to be explored in just about every episode. The crew of the Enterprise wrestled with a different moral dilemma every week. Because of the crews cultural diversity everyone looked at the weekly situation from a different lens. Because of their (dare I say) “tolerance”, they were able to respect and appreciate each other’s solutions and work together.  I completely agree with the third bullet point from this blog post on Geekwire.  The post is titled “7 steps to raise a geek child” by Frank Catalano and his thought is: “Expose your child to Star Trek.  It’s harder to build the future if you’ve never seen, or read, others’ classic vision of possible futures.” This an attitude we want in all of our working environments and company cultures. We want the workforce thinking about the possibility of the future!

So why does this Technology HR guy prefer Star Trek over Star Wars:

  • Ten Forward: Obviously “Beer Friday” was a sanctioned event.
  • A lot of technology companies have video games and lounges where employees can take a break. The Enterprise has a Holodeck.
  • When there a was tough situation, Jean Luc Picard (the CEO) would assemble the executive team and ask for “options”.  He clearly valued collaboration and teamwork towards a common goal.
  • The Kobayashi Maru exercise says all that needs to be said about Management Training.
  • Deanna Troi the half Betazoid counselor looks like HR reporting directly to the CEO. She had a seat on the bridge right next to the captain, AKA, a seat at the table.
  • Spock:  Used logic not emotions to come to a conclusion. Emotion has it’s place in the workplace, but I favor the mantra “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one”. This guy didn’t look out for himself; he looked out for the needs of the many.  In corporate speak, the “many” would be the “corporation”.
  • Sulu: This helmsman was my first Asian Super Hero. He broke through the glass ceiling. Sulu was part of the exec team, could handle himself in a fight and didn’t take care of the laundry. He was an Asian driver, responsible for the navigation of the Enterprise and we didn’t see any Bad Asian Driving until John Cho was asked “Is the parking brake on?” in the maiden voyage of the 2009 movie. (Always got to dis the driving of the Asian brothers.)
  • Nichelle Nichols as Lt. Uhura:  True fact:  She wanted to leave the program and pursue a singing career, but Martin Luther King Jr. convinced her to stay on the program, explaining: “For the first time the world will see us as we should be seen – people of quality in the future. You created a role with dignity and beauty and grace and intelligence.”  +1

I wish more people watched Star Trek. Although I grew up in an integrated school system, (70% minority) it was Star Trek that exposed me to different cultures, different attitudes of thought, and of course technology. Most importantly, Star Trek exposed me to different visual representations of what life could look like. Growing up surrounded by minorities, I didn’t know I was different.  Where I went to school, everyone was different. It wasn’t until I went to a school that was not as diverse that I felt different. I wasn’t treated poorly, but I knew I was different. This is probably a stretch, but part of me likes to think that Star Trek inspired a lot of technology. Maybe there is more diversity in the technology industry because those working in the tech are not just familiar with Star Trek, they embraced it.

HR gets a bad rap for a lot of things. Diversity training probably makes most employees top three list only after 1. Layoffs and 2. Restructuring of a company. Everyone has been through the diversity training that was a one-way lecture. The almighty HR person preaching the rhetoric about equality and sensitivity. Very few employees participate, and a signature is required at the end to prove you attended. There is always one person who takes the class really seriously, and he or she signs their name Donald Duck or Seymour Butts.

I think Star Trek would be a great platform for diversity training. Instead of a class on what you can and can not say, a tour of the bridge of the Starship Enterprise would be in order. Men, women, different races and different worlds all represented at the highest levels of leadership, each working together toward a common goal. Mad Men this is not.

Just think what a company could do if everyone had the mentality and loyalty of the crew of the enterprise. When I think of my corporate days, there was always some yahoo who would chime in with:

  • “it can’t be done!”
  • “That is impossible!”
  • “We will never finish in time!”

This guy did not watch Star Trek. This guy never met Scotty, the engineer that said “Captain, she’s giving us all she’s got!!!”.  When the captain would ask for more, he would respond “Aye Captain”, and git her done.

I liked Kirk but as an HR guy, I don’t know that I could have reported to him. He was a brawler and a promiscuous legal departments nightmare. Picard is my leader.  He brawled with his intellect and diplomacy was his weapon. I don’t imagine Picard in too many sexual harassment lawsuits. Picard was a guy who could sit at the executive table and walk the halls with his sleeves rolled up. For me, the decision is easy.  Star Trek.

See you at the after party,


nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.

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