Leonard Nimoy’s sad passing reminded me that I’d written about “The Star Trek approach to decision making” some 15 years ago, when I first wrote a book called “Rockin’ The Corporation”, which eventually became “Sex, Leadership and Rock’n’Roll” five years later. In the book I rejected Belbin, Myers Briggs and other fancy approaches to understanding the human condition, in favour of the simpler, perhaps unvalidated but far more pragmatic “Star Trek Model”. Although Roger Sperry’s notion of the “Left and Right brain” is largely discredited by academics, I’d dare to suggest that good decisions are none the less composed of creative and analytical inputs, which approximate to the common notion of Left and Right Brain thinking. So, there’s nothing therefore wrong with the term as a practical shorthand for getting from one decision making galaxy to another …
When important decisions are taken in Star Trek, Spock provides the much needed analytical, logical, ordered and structured “left brain” input, whereas Kirk provides the emotionally intelligent, intuitive, creative and improvised “right brain” input. Sometimes Dr Mc Coy arbitrates or facilitates a synthesis between these poles in search of a better synthesis of the analytical and creative positions. Take a glance at the opening sequence of “Space Seed” from 2’53’ – 4’30”, where Kirk has to make a decision about an enemy craft and you will see an archetypal example what I mean:
Instinct is necessary but often insufficient to make good decisions. Just think about some typical business and life decisions:
- Buying a house, a luxury car or a holiday
- Making strategic business decisions
- Falling in love
- Hiring a key member of staff
- Selecting a pension plan
- Planning your career
… or any perverse combination of these things … for example, falling in love with a member of staff, buying a luxury car instead of making sound business decisions or buying a pension plan … many of which I have observed people doing over the years !!
It can be a disastrous idea to buy a house based on the smell of coffee, freshly baked bread, how attractive the owner is, but later discovering that you did not check whether the property had enough bedrooms, that the buyer no longer lives there because they were selling you the property and not asking you to live with them and so on!
Nor would life be tolerable if we attempted to fall in love using Excel spreadsheets or a Gantt chart, checking the “dimensions” of everything, but failing to take into account whether we liked the person or not, as this ludicrous example demonstrates below:
Falling in love (with Excel) again … never wanted to … :-)
We can see just how badly the impulsive Kirk needs Spock’s cool analysis in the episode featuring Joan Collins “The City On The Edge Of Forever”, where Kirk’s decision making abilities are taken completely off course by a kiss – from 1’15” onwards in this sequence.
You could spend a lifetime doing DISC profiles etc. to help you understand your fellow decision makers, or just follow a robust process such as “The Star Trek Method”. There is of course no need to wear the ears of Spock in the Boardroom, although I have supplied these at certain times for very tough decisions and wicked problems … Big decisions are too important to rely on only half of your brain and you sometimes need very big ears to hear new ideas …
Where’s Captain Kirk?
Long Live and Prosper!
Leonard Nimoy R.I.P.
Postcript : in a piece of synchronicity, Steve Browne wrote a piece called #LLAP in celebration of Leonard Nimoy’s life – read it at Everyday People.
Peter Cook leads Human Dynamics, offering better Organisation Development, Training and Coaching. He offers keynotes that blend World Class Leadership Thinking with the wisdom of the street via The Academy of Rock – where Business Meets Music. Author of seven books on Business Leadership, acclaimed by Tom Peters, Professors Charles Handy, Adrian Furnham and Harvey Goldsmith CBE.