Star Trek: Beyond The Final Frontier

21 September 2016 | Tracking Entrepreneurs

Gene Roddenberry had failed. Yes, he had been a World War II pilot who flew 89 missions and had won the Distinguished Flying Cross. Yes, he had published poems and stories. And, yes, as a spokesman and speechwriter for the chief of the Los Angeles Police Department, he had been successful in some screenwriting for television shows such as Naked City and Have Gun, Will Travel (winning an Emmy while doing so).


But in his first big stab at television greatness, his success was short-lived. Per [link], here’s how Roddenberry might have been all but forgotten come 2016:

In the mid-1960s, Roddenberry began work on a science-fiction show that he pitched as Wagon Train set in space. His original pilot was rejected by NBC as “too cerebral”, but he was given another chance and in September 1966 the first episode of Star Trek aired. Featuring a diverse cast that included William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy and George Takei, the show followed the USS Enterprise crew on its five-year mission to “boldly go where no man has gone before” in the far reaches of the galaxy. Although Star Trek found a loyal cult following, it was canceled in the summer of 1969 after 79 episodes.

Richard Zoglin (@rzoglin) in Time gives a great historical account of “A Bold Vision: How Star Trek First Made It to the Screen” [link], What’s key is that Roddenberry was so driven by his vision for Star Trek that he did not give up even after the show was cancelled. This comeback story is well-told by Tim Baker in Newsweek [link].

Of course, in many ways, you probably already know the rest of the story. While I was never a fan of the show in the 1960s, it has been impossible to ignore the numerous television spinoffs that have succeeded the original Star Trek, the series of blockbuster movies, and, of course, the widespread accolades afforded Roddenberry’s achievements this year as Roddenberry’s concept celebrates 50 years of popularity.

Even though science fiction has never been my thing, I cannot help but feel like I missed out when it came to Star Trek. Too many speak of the series in the most august terms. Laurie Ulster says, “I discovered the original Star Trek series in reruns when I was 10, and got hooked for life. The greatest thing about the show, for me, was creator Gene Roddenberry’s revolutionary idea that one day, being smart would finally become valuable.” [link] Then there’s Alan Henry’s (@halophoenix) thoughts expressed in “Everything I Know About Leadership I Learned from Star Trek” [link]. And Andrew Liptak (@AndrewLiptak) shows how the entire field of sci-fi was changed by Roddenberry in “13 science fiction authors on how Star Trek influenced their lives” [link]. One can even find interest in Star Trek in the Shanghai Railway Station, the source of our featured image at the top of this page [link].

What’s that they say on television advertisements: But wait, there’s more! The US Centenniel Flight Commission heralds “Star Trek as a Cultural Phenomenon” [link]. Leif Walcutt in Forbes profiles “7 Star Trek Technologies Available Today” [link]. And Mun Keat Looi (@munkeatlooi) just published an impressive list of “all the technologies Star Trek accurately predicted” [link]. His list includes Bluetooth technology, hyposprays, and Google Glass — he even lists the technologies introduced on the show that we are still waiting for!

[pullquote]While all of Roddenberry’s achievements were in the fictional world, real companies can move in real ways to create new, tangible possibilities, which is what we are all about at The Nextsensing Project.[/pullquote]

By the way, Thorin Klosowski will show you “How to Stream Every Star Trek TV Series and Film”. [link],

What can we take from all this as nextsensing leaders? Much.

The series talked about a large group of people dedicated to a five-year mission of exploration. Many firms would do well to embark on such a quest: Imagine how such an assignment would change you (and your organisation’s) thinking about the future. First, such a challenge would surely start to overcome the plague of short-termism that is holding back so many today. It would also necessitate that people begin to think beyond their sub-sector industry; “space, the final frontier” can be interpreted on many different levels! And, third, the idea of a firm being on an “expedition” engenders a strong sense of discovery and possibility.

What motivates me most about the Star Trek point of view? While all of Roddenberry’s achievements were in the fictional world, real companies can move in real ways to create new, tangible possibilities, which is what we are all about at The Nextsensing Project. Thinking of the age-old debate about whether life imitates art or art imitates life, my sense is that, either way, both begin with human imagination. The bottom line is that once the human imagination is summoned, and directed to a point somewhere in the future, it changes outcomes. Is that not useful for leaders in the 21st century?

As part of the 50th anniversary, @StarTrek recently asked former members of the cast and crew to speak on what Star Trek means to them. Predictably, most gushed about the experience and the honour of being part of such an important legacy. Avery Brooks, who played Captain Sisko on “Deep Space Nine”, offered a more insightful perspective: “One of the reasons I accepted, once asked to do Star Trek, was to give a single child a chance to see the long thought, to see themselves some 400 years hence. It occurred to me that we must ensure that we keep in front of children the ever-changing horizon. To let the children know that there is possibility, to let the children know that someone is not going to take away or destroy this world before they have a chance.”

Let’s keep going where no one has gone before.

Joseph PistruiJoseph Pistrui (@nextsensing) is Professor of Entrepreneurial Management at IE Business School in Madrid. He also leads the global Nextsensing Project, which he founded in 2012.