Category Archives: Decision-Making

4 Lessons From Captain Spock That We Can Apply To Our Working Lives

Like many people, especially fellow Star Trek fans, I was very sad to hear of the death of Leonard 00441047Nimoy last week. A talented
actor, director and writer, Nimoy will forever be remembered for his portrayal of Captain Spock in the classic sci-fi TV and film series, Star Trek. For many of us, he was an inspirational figure.

I came across this Twitter quote from the sci-fi author John Scalzi which says it all:

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However, while Nimoy has sadly boldly gone where many have gone before, the character he brought to life remains immortal. A towering figure in pop culture, Captain Spock epitomised the struggle between human emotion and the power of logical reasoning – something we can all relate to on a daily basis.

There are many fascinating elements to Spock’s character but I wanted to share with you four things that he demonstrated which I think are relevant to all of our working lives. Four things you should consider that will help you to establish yourself as a top performer within your organisation.

1. CONSIDER THE WIDER IMPLICATIONS OF YOUR ACTIONS

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So often, our main focus at work is on our immediate concerns or needs. It is very easy to think only of what affects or benefits ourselves. However, we are part of a wider system – a cog in a machine, if you like. Our actions on a daily basis affect our colleagues and most importantly, our customers. How often do you consider the implications of your actions on a wider level? Do you assess how your contribution is benefitting your organisation?

What Spock demonstrated was the importance of considering the wider implications of one’s actions, ahead of personal impulses. His willingness to do what was necessary for the benefit of the many won him respect and admiration from his colleagues, making him an authority figure within the Enterprise crew. Follow his example and you will quickly establish yourself as a respected and admired colleague within your organisation.

2. SEPARATE EMOTIONS FROM WORK

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Do you have a colleague who reacts dramatically to every little development in the office? If so, you have probably seen how destructive these emotional outbursts are to the rest of the team.

We all fall into the trap of allowing our emotions to get in the way of work. Certain things happen that irritate or worry us and we vent that through small emotional explosions. The problem with this is that our thinking capacity is dramatically reduced as our brain is overloaded with emotion. In this state we produce lower quality work and damage our own emotional health, as well as that of others.

What Spock demonstrated was the benefit of keeping one’s emotions in check in order to be able to make clear, logical decisions about the job at hand. You can accomplish this too by becoming aware of your emotional triggers and managing your response to them. Don’t let your emotions about your work impair the quality of your work. Follow his example and you will establish yourself as a natural leader – the one person who can remain in control while others fall apart.

3. ALWAYS CONSIDER ALL OF THE RELEVANT FACTS

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Have you ever noticed that many decisions at work are made on the basis of very few facts? Often, decisions are based on the impulses or desires of the people involved, not the objective facts of the situation. The result of this is arbitrary decisions that don’t hold up under scrutiny.

This is a trap we all fall into from time to time and it seriously harms our performance at work.

What Spock demonstrated was the benefit of performing a thorough analysis of ALL the relevant facts before making a decision. The solid logical arguments we admire in Spock can be replicated by any of us so long as we ensure we thoroughly understand the relevant facts before making a decision. Follow his example and you will be able to construct and articulate robust business cases that will establish you as one of the most influential players within your organisation.

4. USE COMPUTERS TO SERVE YOUR PURPOSE, NOT DEFINE IT

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Computers now dominate the workplace. Most of us are used to wrestling with various software packages (including the dreaded Microsoft Windows) on a daily basis in order to accomplish our tasks. The problem is that many people rely on computers to get the job done, in some cases to the point that they cannot function without them. Also, organisations are designing processes that cannot operate at all without technology.

What Spock illustrated was the danger of allowing computers to define one’s purpose, rather than serve it. We have become too reliant on IT within our workplaces. Think about your working day and consider how much you are relying on your computer for tasks such as communication. Ask yourself if software is telling you what to do in your job. Follow his example – challenge the stranglehold of computers and take back control of your job.

And finally, I leave you with Leonard Nimoy’s last tweet:

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Rest in peace, Leonard. I have been, and always shall be, your fan.

Why Batman is Relevant to your Business – Better Decision Making

Every single day, you and your colleagues make decisions within your business. The quality of these decisions is what influences your future direction and success. So let me frighten the living daylights out of you by suggesting that the way we all make decisions is fundamentally flawed.

But before I get to that, let’s talk about Batman.Business handshake to seal a deal

Some of you on here may have seen The Dark Knight. If you haven’t, I suggest you check it out. It’s a fantastic film.

For those who don’t know, the basic idea behind the film is the moral dilemma faced by Batman.

There are two main characters in the film – Batman and the Joker. Batman is the altar-ego of Bruce Wayne. Wayne lost his parents when he was a child because they were murdered in cold blood by a criminal. Wayne assumed the identity of Batman in order to go out into Gotham city and bring criminals to justice. At the same time, he made a rule that he would never kill anybody. He did this on the basis that he believed killing was wrong, most likely because of what happened to his parents.

In the film, we see the arrival of the Joker in Gotham city. The Joker has no rules. He is prepared to do anything he likes and kill as many people as he likes purely for his own pleasure. It is clear from an early stage in the film that the Joker is unstoppable.

This presents Batman with a dilemma. As he refuses to kill anybody he’s powerless to stop the Joker. As the film progresses, Batman’s inaction results in the Joker killing numerous people in the city and also several close friends of Batman.

Ultimately, the Joker wins because Batman has rules, whereas the Joker has none.

What’s relevant about this to you is that the cause of the problem in the film is Batman’s strong right and wrong functioning.

We all make decisions in our businesses based on right and wrong functioning to some degree. You may well have experienced moments where you have felt you have made a wrong decision. Equally, you may have experienced times when you feel you have made the right decision. On both occasions, you will have experienced some emotion associated with this. If it’s a wrong decision, you may have felt unhappy. If it was a right decision, you may well have felt good about yourself.

If you listen to the language people use in meetings, you will hear people referring to making the right decision on a regular basis. So like Batman, we all operate to a set of rules and have strong right and wrong functioning in our decision-making.

But curiously, the world is not a binary place. Situations are generally far more complicated and have far more outcomes than the rather simplistic right or wrong options we normally use. Our right and wrong decision making reduces every situation to a binary set of outcomes. Is business really like this?

Right and wrong decision making is based on a number of very rickety elements. Personal values, moral views, emotional states, social pressure and assumptions to name but a few. How consistent are these between different people? How objective are they? Are they always reliable?

Right and wrong decision making blinds us to all the available options we have when making a decision. And we are all brought up with right and wrong functioning hard-wired into our thinking.

Every decision has multiple different options and multiple different outcomes. Every single option is relevant. If we look at all options with no desire to make a right or wrong decision we are left with a choice of which option is the most appropriate to the facts of the situation we find ourselves in. In other words, we are freed from all the emotional baggage that we normally associate with decision-making and are able to make a business led choice.

Next time you come to make a decision, do the following:

  • Assess the facts of the situation; what’s really going on?
  • Consider ALL possible courses of action, even those that seem unpalatable
  • Consider the effects and implications of these actions; what will happen if you follow them?
  • Assess which course of action best fits the facts of the situation based on its cause, effects and implications. There’s your decision!

So maybe it’s useful to be aware that one of the options in reducing our company debt is to sack half of the staff. Maybe it’s okay to consider the possibility that we don’t do that amazing merger deal with another organisation. After all, it’s all just options!

Now think about poor Batman. If he was able to see that the most appropriate option to deal with the situation with the Joker at the beginning of The Dark Knight was to kill the Joker, he would have avoided the one thing that he feared most. Loss of life.

Next time you’re faced with a decision where you find yourself desperately trying to come to the right solution, remember to kill the Joker. It’s not wrong, it’s just an option.

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John Hackett

Managing Director – Franklin-Hackett Ltd.