It's a good thing that we don't have to follow The Prime Directive at work, like Picard and the crew of The Enterprise do! But while don't have to swear to not interfere with the development of a pre-warp civilization, there are many other lessons that we can learn by looking at Star Trek: The Next Generation. Captain Picard's crew embodies a lot of what it takes to be a professional. Here are 8 qualities to emulate.
Like it or not, if you’re not your own boss, you’ll have to follow direction from someone. The chain of command can be seen in every episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Orders are followed, even when there are moral grounds for disobeying the orders, or else someone is punished for not following orders. Everyone has different directing styles, and sometimes it takes a while to adapt. In season 6 episodes 10 & 11, The Chain of Command, The Enterprise reels after Picard is been assigned to a secret mission and a new commanding officer takes over. His demands for rearranging work schedules and demands for extra maintenance frustrates the crew, and their complaints sound exactly like every team I’ve ever been a part of that has undergone management change. While we don’t get to see what this frustrating new CO would do with The Enterprise, often times, frustrations arise simply from directing styles, and not from wild demands. Giving it a little time and some understanding on both sides makes that relationship more comfortable. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t stand up for something that you feel is unfair, but accepting direction is key to a successful work environment.
In the professional world, there are often high stakes involved, and mistakes can happen. As an officer of Starfleet, these stakes can be lives or even entire civilizations. Officers take responsibility for the mistakes of their crew, and even Worf takes responsibility for the actions of his family, but Wesley Crusher learns the importance of accountability the hard way. After the death of a member of his flight team, Nova Squadron, in an accident performing an illegal stunt, the survivors agree to keep the truth of the accident a secret, even when the truth begins to be uncovered. Wesley makes the right choice to come clean about the maneuver after Picard reminds him that every officer has a duty to the truth. Coverups rarely work; it’s always best to come clean about your mistakes before they’re formally investigated and you get in trouble for the mistake, and for lying.
It’s important to speak professionally in a professional setting. Crew above and below in the chain of command are treated with either respect or courtesy. Even when things get heated, most people still choose their words carefully. In fact, Captain Picard himself is often shown diffusing tensions by simply speaking more calmly, like he did with the Cardassian Gul Macet in season 4 episode 12, The Wounded. Picard agrees to search for a Federation ship that destroyed a Cardassian science station, but in a negotiating table, Gul Macet only gets angrier and angrier, accusing Picard and his crew for intentionally not trying hard enough. Picard diffuses the situation by remaining calm in the face of a hostile alien who had previously fired on The Enterprise. It pays to be calm and friendly, especially at the negotiating table, and even when it’s understandable to be frustrated.
I’ve talked about giving yourself a break on this blog before, and even the hard working senior staff of The Enterprise need a break as well. The people who serve on the Enterprise are some of the smartest, most competent professionals on screen, but they still need time off. The senior staff often take a load off by playing poker, and the entire ship has a bar, Ten Forward, for the crew to socialize and relax. There are entire episodes that take place inside the holodeck as our heroes reenact historic battles, plays and books, as well as sports and social scenarios. Data and Geordi’s favorite activity is playing Sherlock Holmes. Burnout is a real danger, and especially when over a thousand lives are on the line, these scientists, crew, and officers need to let off a little steam.
Loads of planets are represented by the United Federation of Planets, all of them inhabited by unique civilizations who share the distinction of developing warp technology on their own. This melding of cultures causes some butting of heads, but more frequently leads to either philosophical discussions each unique culture’s values, or exchange of arts and language. There is an episode about the Federation’s Officer Exchange Program, where Riker serves aboard a Klingon Bird of Prey. In A Matter of Honor (season 2 episode 8), Riker impresses the Klingons by beating up the ship’s second in command when he calls Riker’s loyalty into question, and by happily eating Gagh, but also brings his human perspective to the Klingons when he suggests that one of his crewmates tries talking to his estranged father, who chose to escape Romulan capture rather than die with honor in combat. Learning in a new environment can only lead to a better understanding of the rest of the world, and make you a better friend, worker, and person.
Constant curiosity is one of the most powerful forces in the universe. While The Enterprise was one of Starfleet’s top ships in terms of military power when it was built, The Enterprise’s mission is to “explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations.” Most episodes of The Next Generation start with The Enterprise conducting a scientific inquiry, like monitoring stars nearing supernova, or doing geologic surveys of candidate planets for inhabitation. The actual mission of The Enterprise is a peaceful and, by its nature, a curious one. The crew of The Enterprise teaches us to always be curious! Curiosity leads you to better yourself and your team, and to craft a better civilization
Appreciating Other Points of View
Similarly to cultural appreciation, appreciating other people’s points of view is paramount in both the current professional world, and in the 24th Century aboard a spacecraft. In what is probably my favorite episode of The Next Generation, The Inner Light (season 5 episode 25), Picard lives 50 or so years of an aliens life on a doomed planet in dream induced by an interstellar probe, whose purpose was to allow the doomed civilization live on in the memory of another. While he was forced to live this second life, Picard learns everything about their culture through immersion and will always draw from that experience. Also, in season 2 episode 9, The Measure of a Man, a special hearing is called to legally determine if Data is a sentient being with the right to object to procedures, as a human can, or if he is simply Star Fleet property, which has no right to object to procedures, like a computer requiring maintenence, after a Federation scientist orders Data’s brain deconstructed in order to advance cybernetic science. In the course of the trial, the scientist appreciates the humanity of The Enterprise’s robot officer. It’s always worth listening to another's point of view, and maybe even admitting when theirs is better, because high tide raises all ships.
The Best Teams Display True Affection for One Another, and Yet Have No Fear of Disagreeing
I’ve heard people say “I don’t need to be friends with someone to work with them.” I can understand this point of view, on some level, but it’s a lot nicer when your co-workers at least share mutual professional appreciation. The senior staff of The Enterprise, as I mentioned above, blow off steam by grabbing drinks or dinner with each other, as well as playing poker and enjoying a holodeck simulation with one another. They’re clearly good friends and are very comfortable with one another, but when it matters, they have no issues with expressing their opinion. Picard’s bridge is a place where anyone can speak their mind without the fear that it will affect their personal relationships, and when you feel comfortable with your teammates, you can accomplish a lot more than if you’re worried about stepping on someone’s toes.
What do you admire about The Enterprise's senior staff? Are there other lessons that can be learned from them or other fictional people and teams? Visit us on Facebook and Twitterand let us know!