Feb 27

Kobayashi Maru

Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan. Who doesn’t love this movie? Anyone? Silly question, everyone loves Khan. Non-Trekkies, stay with me here for a moment. One of the most enduring parts from that movie (beyond Shatner’s wonderful ‘Khaaaaaaan!’) is the Kobayashi Maru – a Starfleet test that presents would-be officers with a no-win situation.

SPOILER: The only person to beat this test is Kirk.

How? He changes his situation in order to beat the unbeatable. He reprogrammes the test and is commended for original thinking.

With this test, it is only a no-win situation if you accept the rules as given to you. The same is true for situations we face on a daily basis. So many people tell us things can’t be done, or they need to be done a particular way, or if you try something you’ll fail and they may as well just be repeating the words ‘Kobayashi Maru’. In reality, the only way to fail here is to actually accept the rules.

Check out this maze example in an article entitled ‘Why Blind Obedience is Killing Your Business’. It is spot-on. You just have to realise that the walls aren’t really walls at all. Many of the walls we face day to day are merely mental constructs.

So we don’t have to play by the rules. We can disobey.

Of course disobedience by itself has the potential to be destructive, often self-defeating. That’s why I like to call it Creative Disobedience. It requires creative thinking and also, where possible, actual creation. That’s a contribution. We can learn more from Kirk here – he could have just chosen not to take the test at all, or his tampering could have destroyed the test. He didn’t do that. He stayed well within the systems of Starfleet in doing the test. He just found a way of getting results in a situation which, on the surface, seemed designed to prevent that.

And that’s the key.

The challenge isn’t really breaking the rules. The challenge is in choosing when to break them, how to break them and how much so that you get better results than you would have if you just did what you were told. That’s what I call Creative Disobedience and it’s something I learned in part from Captain James T. Kirk and the Kobayashi Maru.

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