Beam us up, Scotty: What HR can learn from Star Trek

From finding the right leader to a focus on diversity and appreciation for individual skills – the captains of the Enterprise have a lot to teach the modern HR pro.

Beam us up, Scotty: What HR can learn from Star Trek

Think Star Trek is all about daring adventure and on-board drama? There may be plenty of both, but that’s not all the show had to offer – HR pros could learn a thing or two about managing a big, busy company.

  1. Find the right leader
    From James T. Kirk to Jean-Luc Picard – any company could covet the leadership Starfleet found for its Enterprises. Kirk may have been hotheaded and a bit of a Lothario, but he was also known for his dedication to fairness, education and strategy. Picard was a gentler leader who focused on understanding and compassion, but who wasn’t afraid to draw a hard line when necessary.
  2. Avoid groupthink by mixing up your team
    Kirk’s main advisers were Dr Leonard McCoy and Commander Spock, and according to Forbes writer Alex Knapp that gives him a major advantage over leaders who surround themselves with Yes Men.

    “However, the very fact that Kirk has advisors who have a different worldview not only from each other, but also from himself, is a clear demonstration of Kirk’s confidence in himself as a leader,” Knapp writes. “Organizations that allow for differences of opinion are better at developing innovation, better at solving problems, and better at avoiding groupthink.”
  3. Know your experts
    From Uhuru’s language skills to Troy’s empathic abilities – every team member had their area of expertise and they took the lead in situations where they had the best chance of success. This can be a tough lesson for the micro-managers and control freaks among us, but sometimes stepping back and letting the experts in your organisation do their jobs will get you the best results.
  4. Diversity matters
    For a show started in the 1960s, when TV wasn’t known for its diversity, the bridge team on the Enterprise hailed from all parts of the planet, and later from all parts of the universe. This diversity made it easier for the ship to connect with and understand different species they met on their journey – much like today’s companies who are serving an increasingly diverse client base.
  5. Challenge employees to help them grow
    No one becomes a good leader simply by being promoted – it takes experience and obstacles to learn how to think strategically and to understand how to lead a team. Both captains frequently sent their employees on difficult and challenging missions to help them improve their skills and confidence.

    “When you have someone on your team whose doing their job, and doing it well, it can be hard to assign them new or more difficult tasks in a way that shakes up your organization,” Knapp wrote. “But to be an effective leader, you need to shake them up, so that when your team faces harder crises, they’ll be more resilient and effective.”

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