Tony Stark’s guide to innovation; the disappointment of Ironman and why he should sell the project and start mining Bitcoin.

Ironman is a rather well know series of films about a guy (Tony Stark) with a metal suit which flies, has advanced AI and he lives his life like a corporate James Bond. It’s also a cautionary tale about the perils  which follow innovation and about missing opportunities.

If you’ve come from LinkedIn – see below for the extra content

The Ironman suit wasn’t the innovation

The suit looks cool but is essentially some hardware built on the foundation of the real innovation – Tony’s Ark reactor; an almost unlimited, clean and free power source. Its inception came from one of the best drivers for innovation there is – necessity and scarcity. Tony was A) going to die unless he created something and, B) was being forced at gunpoint to build something with bits of spare metal and sticky tape with the only help being one single helper with no relevant skills.

And with his invention came a wave of disruption (quite literally)

What he produced was a device capable of producing enough power to both run himself and a shiny red suit with rocket boosters. His invention was enough to stimulate incredible development by his competitors (enemies) through equivalent products and variations on weapons required to meet the new challenge. Following a period of maturity, his commoditised product spawned a range of suits in a flotilla? Squadron? operated by the US Government.

And then the iteration phase (Ironman suit 6s)

Sadly, improvements to the original Ironman suit have broadly followed a pattern of incremental improvements to the look and feel (shinier with gold bits), the User Interface (the AI robot guy he talks to) and to the self-driving function

With the arrival of a hugely effective competitor (aliens), he is now reliant on a number of partners. These include a guy who is 100 years old with no obvious extra skills (Captain America) and a guy who is really good with a bow and arrow (Hawkeye).

They have a cartel (the Avengers) on planet saving technology which they both protect feverishly and limit its use in the wider world. (it’s the Apple iRonman)

Sustainability?

How successful therefore has Tony Starks killer innovation been? It’s essentially boiled down to the Ironman suit and a building which looks nice and lights up. In the 10 years since the invention of Ironman, he has a better version of Ironman, but no new major products. He has fallen into an old corporate quick sand of creating something unique and truly differentiating but then falling back on old glories in improving what exists and not thinking about the future and the next big thing.

Kodak essentially invented cheap photographic film (and then digital cameras got them), Blockbuster ran the rental video world before Netflix.  Microsoft went through a kicking before getting back to partial world dominance. Look today at Tesla (tonnes of debt, Solarcity anyone?, huge targets set and slow to ramp up), Netflix (not making any money, competitors gearing up for a serious fight (Disney). Everyone loves these companies but they need to achieve world domination or they will fail.

1000 posts have praised Elon Musk for planning a $45b pay day when Tesla is worth $650b but in order to do that, Tesla would have to worth more than the current top 10 car companies put together.

 Saving the world, time to leave it to others.

If you take Tony Stark out of the Ironman movies, do you actually lose anything?

Let’s go back to Tony’s main innovation; his Ark Reactor. My suggestion to him, sell-off the Ironman business and sell the AI and power source for the suits. He’ll make a tonne of cash, allow people more suited to saving the planet to take over and he can focus on taking the next step. He already looks like he can’t be bothered with most of it and he never gets on with the real patriotic types.Tony Stark - innovation

He’s committed to Ironman because of nostalgia and because of the control. He is Bill Gates in the early 2000’s clinging on to Microsoft as the world was beginning to overtake him. Like Bill though, Tony is a visionary and great innovator, he just needs something new to solve.

Change the context

The biggest disruption comes when a product changes the context for what we do and how we live our lives. The iPhone was revolutionary because it changed what we do when we were not at a computer. The train was even more revolutionary because it changed our regard for distance.

Tony Stark’s innovation is to allow the possibility of not seeing energy as a cost or an impediment. You always  look at energy/electricity as a cost (both financial and social) which means the objective is consistently to look at how to reduce consumption or find smarter/more efficient ways to produce it. If however energy was a free and unlimited source, what would it allow and what products could he be thinking about building to take advantage of it.

Rather than Ironman he could have started with Bitcoin mining (because it’s so hot right now), with an astounding processing capacity he could be smashing the competition both in the mining and in the blockchain bit.

The energy production industry would cease to exist in its current form almost overnight and after a few years of massive change to the grid and the network. ‘Tony’s MyHome Ark Reactor’ TM could take every home off the grid.

Stark Industries Maglev Hyperloop trans-sonic commuter trains? Ironman brand 3D printer and DIY at home aluminium micro-smelter?

Ironman 4

I am looking forward to the next Ironman sequel showing the creation of a As A Service model for Ironman Tech. The launch of an energy joint venture between Stark Industries and Thor and the creation of a new cryptocurrency (Ironcoin) to fund Bruce Banner fledgling nano-robot pharma start-up.

Tony Stark will have been ousted to lead R&D leaving Pepper Potts to continue to run the company to astounding success.

http://www.thecorporatefuturist.com

So what?

Crazy but real

Yes crazy, but there is a basis of fact in the above. There are times where countries are producing more electricity that they need (most days now in Scotland when it’s windy – so most days). Even in coal country Queensland with solar, at some times the spot rate for electricity is under 0 therefore which technically means someone is being paid to consume it. Tesla is pushing batteries to allow people to go off grid. There is a working demo of the hyperloop.

The lesson from the Ironman

  • That innovation is only as good as what it changes and what it allows you to do – in creating something amazing, what it disrupts and what that allows you do is the real transformation
  • The change to your perception is important. By changing the dynamic of how you think about constraints and how you review possibilities, you can try to identify real ideas
  • Keep adding fuel – the points you get for great innovation today lose their value in time, you have to take an innovation and improve it but you have to keep adding things which are new

How to do this

It depends on how you want to define innovation and how you set the context.

1)      It’s about doing something new for you – you find other companies, other academics, other tools which do things and you think about how you can apply that to you.

In a workshop context, you want to discuss things outside in e.g.  ask a question like if Space X ran our finance department, what would they do (interestingly, they are all about vertical integration and cost management). Or everything as a service ……

2)      It’s about doing something new (full stop) – you think about what’s never been done, you ask why, and you think about ‘perhaps if’.

In a workshop context, you select an example of something that’s never been done and work through how it might work. The emphasis is on steering clear of reasons why you can’t. e.g. suggest that you run your internal operations as a ‘gig economy’ or give everyone in the whole company an average salary with only performance bonuses changing.

3)      It’s about changing what something means – distance means time, cost means limit, waiting equals bad. Flip that on its head and work backwards.

In a workshop context, you do some prep to identify big blockers that you have and then you design something which ignores them e.g. if teleporting existed, how would we run our performance management process or as the above didn’t have the cost of electricity, how would be manage sales.

4) It’s about the problem, not the solution – the identification of the real problem takes the time (see design thinking, human centric design etc.). You ignore the solution assuming a few people can crack it and spend the time working out whether it’s the symptom or the disease. We are inefficient because we don’t know what we are doing, because we don’t care enough to ask, because we don’t like our bosses, because they don’t let us take breaks even though we have a pool table and PlayStation which we only play when we aren’t getting paid (solution, everyone gets paid 25% extra during their breaks)

In a workshop context, start anywhere and dig until you get what you are looking for, do this with anyone customers/staff/suppliers. Take the time in advance or set it up in the session, take the time to get to a eureka moment.

Managing Blade Runners : An AI future for management

The premise of Blade Runner is that robots have become indistinguishable from human beings and having decided that this isn’t perhaps the greatest idea; the decision is made to get rid of all the robots. However, precisely because they are essentially identical it’s a tough job and because they don’t know they are robots, it’s even harder. There are a range of moral and psychological discussions which have spurred many a student conversation.

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-w-whitehead/blade-runner_b_1445387.html

However, I’m a management consultant so I care more about the managerial and leadership implications of AI and robotics.

Let’s start with a spectrum of AI starting with me (just my brain and my experiences), and then there’s me with a knowledge base (laptop + phone), then me with some AI (Augmented Reality, AI engine, VR maybe), then there’s robot me 1985 Short Circuit version; ability to learn (input, input), process and rationalise and then there’s 2049 Blade Runner me, two of me slightly refined and programmed to be more effective and manageable.

Along that spectrum, each version of me requires different management to take best advantage of my skills and potential but for my manager, she’s going to have to change her approach by the time we get to 2049.

Individual decision making – in a world where everything happens faster and faster, there is a requirement for decision making to keep pace. As the saying goes, ‘a bad decision is better than no decision’. However,  the process for individual decision making relies on taking on board information, advice and environment and then doing what you think is best. When you have AI which assesses all possible outcomes and factors, how brave will you have to be to go against the advice? In all science fiction films ever, the role of the computer/robot is to say ‘there’s a 92% chance that we will die in a massive fireball’ but without exception, the human protagonist will say something like ‘never tell me the odds’ and then does it anyway.

The situation will be that either you have to take the advice from the AI because you yourself can’t work it all out or we’ll all need to be Han Solo, ignoring the odds and therefore the value of the advice? What does the robot do when you ignore them? Do they apply the escalation protocol or take over themselves?

Instinct and accident – there are many a good things discovered by accident; penicillin, post-it notes, the microwave, America. There is also the 400 popular motivational quotes showing how instinct is incredibly important to decision making and success. With experience, most people will make decisions because ‘it feels right’ or ‘smells wrong’. With immense AI, will we ever do anything by accident or instinct anymore and how might we direct our team. As every consultant will tell you, the greatest invention in human history is the post-it note. A 3M guy invented some sticky stuff, a church goer friend wanted to stick bookmarks in his bible and hey presto, a legend was born. Now the robots can probably do the sticky bit but perhaps not the church bookmark bit?

In the future team, how do you direct the AI what to do. It’s already happening that machine learning means that you don’t always have to in the first place but the there needs to be either a genesis for an idea or human link to do something with it. Will AI take away our need for instinct or an approach to try something without seeing the value?

Emotional connection and personalities – there is a strength of leadership which comes from supporting and developing people. Building an emotional connection, making people feel safe and valued, and contributing to their development and learning; these are requisite in an effective leader. With those things, people work harder, do better and add more value. This requirement is not one a robot has, but as with Blade runner, the robots are better when they are given the connection to a past and some emotions. You can accordingly download the ‘your manager is great’ patch and realise the same value.

If you are spending 20% – 50% of your time working with people to develop them (as you should) you will in future, have 20 to 50% more time. You will be used to managing the flow of requests and instructions which will be done quicker, will require less supervision and won’t need the pesky personal development time. (my own coffee budget will reduce by at least 80%, decimating the local economy).

Assuming then, there will be a mixed team of humans and (androids), what is already a hard dynamic to get right will be made much harder (or easier). Will your new management role as a benevolent dictator to the AI machines  go alongside the training of a smaller team of humans in how to be they too can become an authoritarian despot.

In Blade Runner, everyone is ruthless and contains their emotions as they don’t quite know what is real and what is not. It is perhaps this type of manager who will be successful in future. Life in management consultancy is to expect to work in many teams for many managers. A resource request is not for a person but a set of skills. E.g. I need a senior con with HRM experience in the public sector. This approach to resources as a commodity is only likely to become increasingly the norm.

Work structure – we essentially work 9-5 with  grey areas around starting early and finishing late. Even after 50 years of working broadly to those times to match with sunrise and sunset in the northern hemisphere, we are still following that standard. This tradition completely  changes with increased use of AI. There will be a big block of work running 24/7 so what will the role of manager be to oversee the work? Will everyone’s day be 2 hours in a block or will we all be on-call all of the time waiting for the 2 hours whenever its needed?

Now, we aren’t going to be living in a Blade Runner world immediately but you can already see the parallels in the corporate world.

Decision making is increasingly being driven into centralised buckets by project management tools which support the process.

The access to reports and information means senior people can more quickly make lower level decisions.

The focus is on efficiency and effectiveness with reduced time for making valuable ‘accidents’ and instinct is increasingly taking a back seat to information.

There’s also a reduction in direct leadership and development with inspiring leaders more readily available online and we are already working through the clock in India, the US, Europe and Asia.

We just need the androids and their electric sheep.

http://www.thecorporatefuturist.com

Harry Potter and the Organisation Design of Destiny; we are increasingly segmenting customers by behaviour but why not your own people? What you need is a sorting hat.

Consultants are now designers, designers are now consultants, an operating model is now a service design, are you a technologist or a CX delivery consultant? It’s all getting wonderfully mixed up so maybe it’s time to recognise that putting people in teams based on what they do might be yesterday’s thing. What would they do at Hogwarts?

Once you’ve been discovered as a wizard (HR recruitment process) and you’ve bought your wand (your area of SME), you arrive at Hogwarts (induction week). The first thing that happens is that you are allocated into your House (service line). Hogwarts has the benefit of a mystical Sorting Hat who allocates you based on what’s in your heart.  It’s nothing about how much you know and even what you know, it’s about who you are.  How about a corporate equivalent?

harry potter

Imagine a scenario; everyone you work with leaves the company tomorrow and goes to a new one. Do you choose to stay with the company or do you go with your colleagues? It takes an incredibly strong brand or corporate culture or level of success to ensure that you stay. Much more likely is that you would choose to go with your colleagues. People power is absolute in maintaining the culture, the performance and ultimately to get the best out of the individuals.

So pick your heads of house; if you don’t have a blend of leadership personalities and approaches then you have bigger problems so assuming that you do. Select people to be the marquee personality types to align people with. They don’t have to be the smartest or most successful but they don’t need to be, they need to be people you can look up to and see yourself in them. Maybe a Slytherin type; all confidence, cunning and black magic or a Ravenclaw type; thoughtful, intelligent and balanced.

You then allocate people based on suitability with these people; personality types, approaches, ideas and connections.

You all still go to classes together; as with the pupils at Hogwarts, you still go the same classes with each other. Your knowledge is separated from the House you are in. There are experts in Potions in every house who end up together, but they go back to their common rooms to get support and build their personality.

The work you do and the projects you are in can be kept away to your house and managed in a more procedural numbers driven way. When skills are becoming increasingly connected, it’s already a challenge to distinguish teams and the structures are becoming increasingly arbitrary anyway.

Create a house competition; it’s human nature that you are not going to like everyone in your organisation (there will also be people who don’t like you). Rather than try to fix the unfixable, embrace the competition between different teams. Gamification often hits a wall when it’s kept in a small group of people or where it’s not visible enough. Perhaps the Slytherin team needs a strong individual competitive environment with league tables etc whilst the Hufflepuff gang would hate that. Perhaps they would prefer collective incentives. To give you an example; ask yourself, would you rather have a competition in your team where everyone gets a $1000 bar tab if your team hits a target or the top two performers get a $1000 Michelin star 12 course degustation menu?

You can build the right incentives for individuals within the teams because people are fundamentally driven by different things.

Sounds magic right but it’ll never work

It’s already happening, have a think about the current graduate recruitment process where experience and content is loosest. There are lots of conversations about bringing together grads into a single group or having them rotate. Even the process tends to pick the grads first and then you allocate them into teams. This is a very small step from Hogwarts.

How about performance reviews, we are always trying to connect qualitative and quantitative measures. Why not separate them completely? You get you exam marks from your classes (quant) and you get a report from your house master (qual) and the overall success of the business is measured by the house competitions (your numbers).

Disruption is everywhere for clients but we’ve not necessarily changed enough about how we structure ourselves to deliver that disruption. Tacking on a design bit, blending tech teams with non tech, carving out bits and pieces. Why not something new?

www.thecorporatefuturist.com

PS As regards enabling services, I am wary of making to suggestion but how about ‘house elves’. Effective, efficient, loyal and actually much more magically proficient than most of the wizards and witches. Comments about remuneration are also worthy of discussion………

Super-agile-project’s-fantastic-culture’s-still-atrocious: Mary Poppin’s guide to mandatory fun at work

In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun. You find the fun, and – SNAP – the job’s a game!. You want to get some fun into the office; start by not planning it, nominate your Mary Poppins and ensure that there’s always a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down.

Mary Poppins is the original Culture Transformation consultant. She came into an organisation with some major staffing challenges (unruly, messy, children), a dysfunctional executive board (Mr Banks being only numbers driven, Mrs Banks focussed on other projects) and operations managers struggling with the scale of their job.

Her first task in the house, rather than to define a framework or strategy for culture was to focus on practical operations concerns (e.g. tidying the nursery). Her first change was not to recommend huge expenditure on a new environment, on training or new processes but rather ‘In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun. You find the fun, and – SNAP – the job’s a game! ‘. She very successfully changed the mindset of the everyday task into something fun e.g. tidying up by singing a song with some characters (and granted with some magic).

Looking at Mary Poppins, she isn’t a naturally ‘fun’ person (even if she is practically perfect in every way). She is very serious even with the fun, she smiles rarely, she is hugely strict in management and on timescales, and is incredibly inflexible. After a few short weeks though, even though her focus was on the lowest ranks of the organisation (the children), she made a huge change to the whole organisation; including the bank of the children’s father

What would Mary make of today’s corporates?

There is a recognition that the way we are all working is changing. Projects are shorter and more intense, Agile etc, people are working harder in shorter timescales. We are increasingly blending together people of different working backgrounds; designers with testers, analysts with accelerated workshops, digital native grads with 30yr veteran CFOs. There has been huge investment in working spaces; activity based working, collaborative spaces, innovation centres etc. This is all worth nothing unless there is single thread of culture you can weave throughout. The simplest thread that everyone can connect to is ‘fun’.

The only problem is, corporates are typically pretty poor at being fun and consultants are even worse. Here is what Ms Poppins thinks.

Not about planned fun – there is an obsession with having launch ‘parties’ or quarterly meetings with a ‘fun’ element. These things are usually heavily planned and agreed in advance, typically watered down to be acceptable and usually run by HR. Mary has a simple rule for this; if you put an agenda item called ‘fun’, it’s not going to be fun. People will go to these events partially because they have to and partially because ‘why not’. However, the Christmas party does not make up for a whole year of boredom and it’s madness to try. I once watched the senior leadership team dress up as the ‘supremes’ and sing a karaoke number; the memory haunts me to this day. Fun needs to be a way of working, not a reward. It’s like a bonus, if you come to expect it the value is reduced and can actually work the other way. Examples of my own include; an all day connect 4 match where a move is played only at 15 minutes and 45 minutes past the hour; the Susan Race, where the team had the time to complete a deliverable as long as Susan took to run 10k which we monitored online. (name changed to respect Stef’s identity); the Wednesday afternoon British vs Australian Dairy Milk taste-off (controversial victory to Straya). Mary would build fun into the fabric of the day to day and you should too.

Nominate your Mary Poppins – don’t underestimate what a few people can do to a working environment. An office is like a party, there will always be a few people which make the difference between okay and great. You can still have a quiet conversation in the corner but you remember the person singing cover songs of Frank Sinatra into a banana and wearing a tea cosy. You get the strange effect of fun osmosis where the atmosphere spreads to people who aren’t involved. You need some people to be like casino concierges, walking around having chats, handing out free fruit/chocolates, showing some interest, tell a few jokes. Mary was constantly thinking up new ideas, new people, new adventures.

Micro fun – a spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down – in most organisations, you give big carrots to people for big achievements. There should be more little carrots for little achievements and they should not be financial. Take a process like doing your expenses. If that could be improved just a little with some fun, you would vastly augment the experience. Working on something big can be reward itself but it’s the little jobs everybody hates. You work a 60 hr week and it’s the 90mins on the expenses you complain about all week. E.g. completion of an expenses report entitles you to one spin on the roulette wheel which could win you a coffee or an iPad or half a banana; anyone completing expenses is allowed to sit on the special massage chair with an expenses only laptop to do the work. Little incremental changes have huge benefits. Mary made the small boring tasks the most fun, this is a great place to start.

So before you spend a fortune on rewards and environments have a think about how you put some fun into the workplace; get onto it before the wind changes

http://www.thecorporatefuturist.com

For all the reasons why fun is important and for some much smarter writing, have a look at these.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/lizryan/2014/08/18/how-to-have-fun-at-work/#502686c473c9

https://hbr.org/2017/07/stop-putting-off-fun-for-after-you-finish-all-your-work

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/animal-emotions/201405/the-importance-play-having-fun-must-be-taken-seriously

Judge Dredd: Judge, Jury and Execution of leading practice Agile

In a future world with increased urbanisation, huge disruption due to climate change, a series of ‘judges’ double as police, jury, judge and executioner to make immediate decisions on crimes and conduct immediate remediation up to and not limited to instant execution with a range of exotic weaponry. They are supported by an huge AI engine with all information on each individual delivered through a Google glass type device which supports the ultimate decision. An ethereal Siri type voice provides the information direct to Judge Dredd who then makes the decision.

‎Now, it might seem like a leap but this is basically the perfect description of good Agile management (without the executions). Here’s why;

‎With the risk of being controversial, Agile is increasingly the de facto project delivery approach but it is commonly poorly delivered or is morphed into a hybrid which doesn’t help anyone. It all sounds so good to start with; flexible and quick delivery of outputs, visible and engaging, easy to see progress and all you need are two core principles;

‎ 1) that you don’t know exactly what you are going to get at the end and 2) You have to have the ability to make quick decisions of some importance.

‎This is where the cunning plan can fall down, the client needs some clarity of the outcome and some decisions are delayed to get the right group. It is very quick to end up with a series of small waterfalls against a big project plan. A simple test for your project is to count how many people are in the PMO or PM team and to have a quick look at your project plan. From a consultant’s perspective, you can be in the position where the length of a Sprint creates a hugely increased level of bureaucracy and actually restricts the ability to be flexible because you are constantly defending small changes or delays. Most of us never work harder than on Agile projects and you know what; it’s not always the consultants fault.

‎In the comic, Judge Dredd came about because of the slow speed of the decision making process in ‘Megacity One’ to deliver justice. Decisions were stacking up, cases were overwhelming the Steering Group (Megacity Courts) and nothing was getting done. So, they armed the Judges with authority to make decisions immediately, stuffed them full of information available and put in some checks to measure their performance. Judge Dredd even went around with a deputy who provided an ongoing psychology summary e.g. the voice of the customer embedded right there in the decision process.

‎It’s time then to apply some Judge Dredd to the corporate Agile process as part of the governance. Each member of an overall program steering group could be nominated as a Judge. Each are armed with a Judge’s visor (or an iPad would probably do) loaded with all the decisions, strategies, an overall Judge Yammer group and any project document. They are supported by a Deputy Judge who represents the customer (they too could get a cool uniform). Decisions are made in the moment and are recorded into the central store. You could even use the Judge Dredd story to explain the process for Agile and actually build it into the project lexicon. I’d love to go to a Sprint start-up, close-down when dramatic music herald the feared arrival of the ‘Judge’.

‎What’s even more important is to consider the impact of Agile on overall project delivery. The biggest change in IT project delivery in the past decade has been the reduction in the time from idea to execution. My first project as a grad was a 3 year ERP implementation (in fairness, it was meant to be 2 years) but a typical cycle now can be 16 or 20 weeks. Back then when things were more customised and bespoke, you still spent half the money on the change and business piece. Now you are talking about an even bigger change for people in a hugely reduced time period.

‎So you have to be quicker, more visible and more direct. Send for the Judge.

‎www.thecorporatefuturist.com

Darth Vader’s approach to a two speed Digital corporate culture

‎Say what you like about Darth Vader, he ran a tight ship. He was consistently results driven and he delivered feedback (usually fatal) in a timely manner rather than wait for the Death Star half yearly appraisals. I also never saw him punish a stormtrooper, not one single lower level employee, Darth reserved his ire for the senior members of the team, make changes quickly to improve performance and always, always promoted from within. I’m sure he was seen as a wonderfully charismatic figure by the rank and file and he was always diligent in applying the wishes of the Emperor. He is therefore, a fine example of a CXO in modern corporate business.

‎He is a strong symbol externally to the market, he works his leadership hard but never seeks to micro-manage. It is also impossible to challenge the remarkable political and technological achievements made by the ‘Empire’. The creation of a seriously killer app (literally) and the subvention of the entire system of government without military intervention. https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/jul/30/google-silicon-valley-corporate-lobbying-washington-dc-politics, http://www.news.com.au/technology/online/social/speculation-about-a-mark-zuckerberg-presidential-run-refuses-to-die/news-story/e42cb11b82f8a527709c61349de2eae8.

‎This year perhaps more than in the past 10 years; conversations about moving corporate culture have been more prevalent. There is a general realisation in the power of the force (culture) being required to adapt to a digital, customer centric world as a pathway to Digital Transformation. If you add the technology of the empire and the scale of managing the galaxy without getting the people right. You’ll never defeat the rebellion.

‎However, with all the will in world you aren’t going to change everyone to the right culture in the time available before the next wave of innovation and progress arrives; so do we have to take advice from Darth?

Your clone army

‎You need to respect your clones – the basis of the stormtroopers was a clone army which was superior to the robot equivalent as the power to think creatively was preferred. These clones are easy to manage due to training, repeated performance and a strict adherence to orders. All due respect to them, they aren’t going to progress up the ranks and actually, you don’t need them to. You need to keep them focussed on tasks, reward them well for performance (shore leave on Naiboo maybe). You want them to focussed on details, rigorous and engaged. Success is commonly it’s own reward and pride at every level in the organisation’s performance is hugely powerful.

Your leaders and your leading edge

‎You also need some charisma and some fun as you live your values – https://hbr.org/2017/07/stop-putting-off-fun-for-after-you-finish-all-your-work. All of the lead bad guys in Star Wars are gloriously compelling – gravel voiced with masks, red spiky faces and cool double lightsabres, giant worm things or Christopher Lee. They all have their gimmicks, their specialist skills and they all have charisma and people willing to fight for them. Perhaps even more importantly, the top, top guys all have a messianic pursuit of a single corporate value – the force. Every action is set and measured against the instinct and the strength which comes from this single unifying spirit.

‎Allow Darth and the bosses to lead the way but where you need to put the money is in the culture is in the ideas people? The person with the crazy idea for the Death Star would have had some challenging early steering group meetings in the concept phase. How much steel? How much power? How many special explosive crystal things? How long? There needed to be the culture in place to allow for such an idea to be brought up in the first place and then to get the support behind the project…… There is also the remarkable autonomy given to the lead engineers so that such a creation could be made even when it has a major design flaw (single shot to the exhaust vent blows it up – even though it’s probably not https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=agcRwGDKulw), and goes into Beta testing when it’s not finished (Return of the Jedi – geeky reference this one).

‎So, perhaps it’s time to accept that a balanced utopia in the your corporate culture is not what you need in the first instance. You need to create a 2 speed culture which allows one group to focus on what they are good at and another group to be the (Death) Star team. In time perhaps you can move everyone, but success brings it’s own challenges. Don’t believe me – look at how Google has split their business into the money making bit and the ideas bit and their corporate motto was just one word away from the Empire’s – Do(n’t) be evil!

‎Thecorporatefuturist.com

Captain Kirk and the surprisingly large size of the Starship enterprise

Since the 60s, Captain James T Kirk and his cohort of intergalactic travellers have inhabited a world of constraint free, technology supported adventures. To write these adventures, successive generations of screenwriters and directors have had a blank piece of paper to create their world.

Star trek doors

As with all writers, they start with the story and piece together plot structure and suspense; love, romance, disaster and triumph.  You can have an interracial kiss in the 60’s because it is ‘Star-date 2345’ and when there are aliens, the social constraint surely doesn’t apply. The huge cost of filming landing on a planet is reduced quite considerably by the ability to teleport and the huge supply chain management issues of feeding thousands of people on the ship is reduced by a food replicator (I wonder whether they need one of everything to have something to replicate from).

All the technology starts with a use case where any everyday thing is easily fixed. Once there’s a problem, it can be remediated instantly in someone’s imagination. In the real world, we are squeezed out of imagination by everyday constraints. But do we need to have our own ideas when we can just take the ones from Star trek and do that. Take sliding doors; have you other wondered why most sliding doors work like the Star Trek ones even though a normal door opens out or in? Did someone invent the technology for a door to look like Star Trek and did a young inventor see Chekov ordering his lunch and get to thinking about 3D printers? Would we have the same obsession with needle free medicine delivery and is love for VR just a desire to recreate the holodeck?

On the other hand alongside an advanced technological society, the Star Trek gang also live a hugely homogenised world, everyone in the same uniform, everything clean and shiny. Does anyone know how anything works? There’s lots of button pushing which is the only thing required to fix everything but Bones’s job is to read out what the reading on his medi-scanner and even Scotty blessed with his genetic Scottish prevalence towards engineering can only respond generically about di-lithium crystals and not having enough power. Only 5 people or so are ever trusted to go on extra planetary excursions (and one of those people is always there to be sacrificed) and perhaps even more sinister is the ability to communicate to everyone at all times and to know the whereabouts and condition of everyone all the time.

So the Star Trek gang exist in a world or technology enabled ease where social, morale, philosophical or (especially military) challenges are the only ones left.  Is that the world towards which we are heading? Perhaps the most intriguing thing is why the Starship enterprise is so big when they don’t need to carry much and it’s a core group of staff who do everything. Either there’s hundreds of unseen leisure hunters enjoying the United Federation Botanic gardens on level 48 whilst Captain kirk the real loser has to knuckle down Or perhaps there needs to be room for all the robots and the huge server rooms being cooled by the infinite bleakness of space.