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Corporate management, Star Trek style  
Posted by Brian D on February 21 2008, 09:17 » Uploaded 21/02/08 09:18  

In the first edition of Anxiety Culture (1995) I wrote a short piece poking fun at the management ethos in Star Trek: The Next Generation (see below). I wrote that videos of the show would be ideal for corporate training purposes. "Many a true word is spoken in jest", it seems - a correspondent has just pointed out the following book, which provides business leadership lessons from the series:

Make It So: Leadership for the Next Generation, by Wess Roberts

Original Anxiety Culture article:


As we witness the release of the latest Star Trek film, Star Trek: Generations and two new CD ROMs based on Star Trek: The Next Generation, it is worth taking another look at the current Star Trek phenomenon. A large number of Star Trek fans are computer whiz kids who could become tomorrow’s technological adepts – and far from sending out a message of an optimistic egalitarian future, Star Trek: The Next Generation actually portrays a model of a future corporate hell, a highly regimented, strictly authoritarian, anal-retentive efficiency hive.

If you shift your attention from the sci-fi fantasy and hi-tech elements of The Next Generation to the organisational structure and communication style on the Enterprise, what you see very plainly is corporate management style of the 80s and 90s. The Star Trek crew carry the stench of having just been on a motivational company training course on teamwork and career goal-setting. Let’s face it, when your boss keeps repeating the phrase, ‘make it so’, you know you’re knee-deep in something very unpleasant.

Life on the Enterprise contains all the social paraphernalia of the contemporary office environment: formal ‘board’ meetings, informal staff meetings, disciplinary procedures, training exercises, staff uniforms, staff canteen, mandatory ‘team spirit’ and loyalty, strict chain of command and subservience to superiors, political correctness, career ambition, managerial buzzwords, tight schedules, ‘challenges’ rather than problems, approved standards of behaviour, official etiquette etc. In fact, the only things missing are the inefficiency, boredom and resentment inevitably found within most real corporations. Videos of Star Trek: The Next Generation would be ideal for corporate training purposes. Perhaps the episodes could be renamed to facilitate this new marketing direction: Episode One: Respect For Authority.

The most nightmarish aspect about The Next Generation is the powerful position held by the personnel manager (sorry, ‘counsellor’) on the starship – a personnel manager who can see into your most private feelings the way a telepath can read your thoughts. Think of that for a moment – disciplinary procedures for anyone caught feeling resentment, disrespect or other ‘bad’ attitudes. This is far worse than anything Orwell dreamt up. Too disturbing to show to children.

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