How a Trekkie stays creative in the know-it-all age

Leonard Nimoy said, "If I live to be 100, I hope to stay creative." Creativity is a way of approaching the universe, not a get-to-know-you game at your next staff retreat.

Leonard Nimoy said, "If I live to be 100, I hope to stay creative." Creativity is a way of approaching the universe, not a get-to-know-you game at your next staff retreat.

“There’s nothing new under the sun.”

“Everything’s been done before.”

“There are no new ideas because we’re saturated with information in the digital age.”

I’ve heard multiple professors and researchers claim these points, mourning the death of creativity because everyone has access to every bit of information out there.

Here’s where this Trekkie calls bullcrap.

Consider the starship Enterprise, a flying metropolis powered by technology that could access galaxies of information on countless peoples and planets with one simple voice command, “Computer, access database of…” And this starship is filled with Starfleet’s best -- intellectuals and scholars trained in a glittering academy of knowledge. Put all this on top of a warp drive that could transport them to the outer reaches of space within moments, and you have a tool that most CEOs would kill for.

But their mission? To seek out new worlds and new civilizations. To boldly go in search of new information. With millennia of data and the most educated minds on board, the Enterprise was still looking for more information, more questions needing answers, more IDEAS.

Why? Because its crew understood infinite possibilities -- what we in the pre-warp core era call creativity.

We worry about a crisis of creativity because we’ve amassed a few centuries’ worth of words (often suspect to interpretation and bias, I should add) on a handful of clunky devices loosely and unreliably connected by the almighty Internet. We believe we’ve corralled so much information and know everything there is to know. Certainly there is nothing new out there.

And using this limited mindset, we hold brainstorming sessions and attempt to be creative.

What would the crew of the Enterprise say?

1.  An idea can come from anywhere or anyone, at any time.

Leaders on the Enterprise always listened to their crew members, regardless of their rank. Chief Engineer Geordi La Forge noticed the nervous, stammering Reginald Barclay and pressed him to share his ideas with leadership. Barclay went on to save the Enterprise from destruction, rescue a group of refugees and even forge a peaceful coexistence with the Cytherians.

Have you spent time with your Reginalds? Do you recognize genius in all its forms? Does your planning team contain members from all departments, regardless of rank? Perhaps the best question is does your leadership team take time to notice and listen?

2.  Ideas should come forth without judgment.

I was facilitating a strategic planning session and encouraged teams to list ways to improve employee morale. I even told them to pretend they had unlimited resources. One person shouted, “We should take everyone on a cruise!” His colleagues erupted in laughter and jeers like, “We could never do that!” So what? It’s still an idea.

When Captain Picard assesses a situation, he throws the doors open wide and recognizes every idea for what it is – an option. Maybe it’s not the most realistic or most practical notion, but who cares? Picard allows each team member to weigh in using his or her unique perspective, and all suggestions exist in the neutral zone. (If you’re not a geek, that’s kind of like Switzerland.)

3.  There’s no such thing as too many ideas.

Ever notice how the Enterprise’s mission is a “continuing” one? Starfleet never says, “Come back when you discover everything about everything.” There was no quota on new worlds and new civilizations; there was only the mandate to seek them.

Kaihan Krippendorff reveals that companies usually stop thinking of options after the third one. No kidding! We hold lengthy brainstorming sessions that generate pages of ideas, but when it comes time to execute, we only list about three. Aren’t you glad Albert Einstein didn’t do that? Or Stephen Hawking? Or Gene Roddenberry?

4.  Creativity is the way to approach the universe, not a get-to-know-you game at your staff retreat.

*Spock raises eyebrows*  It's only logical, people.

If Star Trek taught us anything, it’s that our creativity in marketing or life is not bound by our current knowledge base, our competition, our market share or any other outside force. (It also taught us the value of diversity in the workplace, but that’s another story.)

What if we opened ourselves up to unlimited potential? What if we approached creativity like the Enterprise – multiple galaxies of infinite possibilities? What if we boldly went on a continuing mission to seek out the new?

Act of Fearlessness: Go boldly. And live long and prosper.

Author's note: This is the final post in the Geek Girl series, where my worlds of geek and corporate culture collide. Mr. Scott, one to beam up.