Why Should Your Innovation Team Be Like Star Trek's Starship Enterprise?

POSTED BY : Principal Architect - MS Azure CoE
Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Star Trek, the show, is a celebration of human adventures set in outer space. The protagonists of the series serve in the peacekeeping force Starfleet and possess altruistic values, are constantly challenged and have to apply their ideals to difficult dilemmas.  This forms the overall theme of Star Trek. If you think about it for a moment, in our daily lives, we are like the crew of Starfleet. We are bestowed with limitless capacity that is absolutely within our reach and doing anything less than what we can is a disservice. 

Now, that might be a little too philosophical or deep. But to get back on track, what can your innovation, research, or CoE teams learn from Starship Enterprise - the mightiest spaceship       ever-showcased in Start Trek or all of sci-fi?

Lessons from Starship Enterprise and NASA

Starship Enterprise or USS Enterprise is unlike any spaceship created in the history of sci-fi movies, novels or series. Most space vessels are built with a purpose of intergalactic transportation, usually that means getting from point A to B somewhere in the universe. But Starship Enterprise was not built for getting from A to B in the vast universe; instead, it was built to explore. Get out there and figure things out, change plans as circumstances change- this is the sole purpose of the Starship Enterprise. If you were to map this to how NASA operates the picture becomes clearer.

NASA aims at expanding the frontier of space exploration. They can afford to do this because of government backed funding that works quite differently from how private or venture capital backed companies operate. Private organizations need a clear definition of the value proposition that ultimately translates to profit. Now, consider SpaceX, a private organization that is fast replacing NASA as a transportation provider for space exploration. SpaceX specializes as a space-transportation company that puts satellites in orbit, taking supplies to the International Space Station and carrying out other such activities; something that NASA used to champion. With SpaceX operating in this sector, NASA now has the opportunity to do what they do best, which is expanding the frontier or playing in the unknown-zone. 

In your organization, the CoE should be attempting to explore and expand your horizons and the rest of the organization should attempt to normalize the newly explored territories or activities into routine ones. Much like how SpaceX makes space transportation a routine         activity; something that once was a new frontier for the world.

Build your own innovation unit to push new frontiers

Research centers at Microsoft and Google are classic examples of how innovation units expand their frontiers in computer science. These units aren't tasked with solving a certain problem, instead they imagine a new future and attempt to build it. This is very different from getting a specification sheet and building as per the requirements. Certain innovations that come out as a consequence of such pursuits could be (though not necessarily) incorporated with products or services that contribute to the bottom line of the organization. Much like how Starship Enterprise serves the Starfleet in space exploration and takes humans to mysterious corners of the universe.

So, is your innovation teams /CoEs built to explore or push new frontiers?

Let me know what you think…

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Vishnu Rajkumar
Principal Architect - MS Azure CoE