What Can Sci-Fi Teach Business?
Those of you who know me will know that I am an avid fan of Science fiction, to the point of attempting to pen a Sci-Fi novel or two. Writing a book is not unlike running a business. You know where you want to get to (the ending), you start off with a firm view of where the journey will take you (the plot outline) and you know what the key components look like (the characters). But often the process of developing it can take you to places and experiences that you had not envisaged initially. So you learn to adapt your plan to take into account the new perspective you have gained, but try to ensure that you end up at your original objective.
An old mentor of mine said something to me that has really stuck, that you should only do something for the right reasons and not “simply chase the money”. This too I think chimes as well with writing a Sci-Fi novel as it does running a business. So here are my thoughts on what Sci-Fi can teach businesses:-
1) Have faith that you will prevail. Be it Star Wars, Judgement Day or Avatar the main protagonists of the story often find themselves at a significant disadvantage to their foe. Numbers, technology, powers – all odds seemed stacked against them. But they have a clear view of what they want to achieve and a keen sense of purpose that ultimately sees them through to achieve their goals.
2) In space – no one can hear you scream. In other words, it is lonely at the top. Therefore waiting for someone to come and rescue you is probably a recipe for being the first person shot by a laser or eaten by an alien. Leadership takes proactivity and being bold… I won’t use the obvious quote here!
3) No matter how big the foe – they will have a weakness. In a competitive environment finding where you have a unique strength is often the best way to exploit a larger competitor’s weakness. It can be service, price, how you package what you do or an innovative or unique approach to solving a difficult problem. The key is taking time to look for where the Achilles heel is in the competitive marketplace and either identifying or developing a method to exploit it well.
4) People can change – so don’t take them for granted. That old writer’s trick, the plot twist where the bad guy comes good in the end! Lots of lessons re people management here. Dictatorships work only as long as dissent is kept at bay and fear has a hold. The power of people working together for a common cause often finds allies where you least expect it. The same is true with people within a business and/or within prospective customers. Investing time in relationships can yield more positive effects than are immediately obvious. I’m not promising that you’ll discover that somebody is your father but you may find somebody can be turned from the dark side to being on your side.
So there you have it – some thoughts on what Sci-Fi can teach us as business owners. Think Big, Be clear on what you want to achieve. Keep the faith when things get hard and spend the time to get to know people who could be important later in the story. And together, maybe you can rule a little piece of the galaxy.
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