I grew up on Star Trek – not just the show, but the idealistic vision of a future in which a United Federation of Planets could boldly go where no one has gone before, seeking out new life forms and new civilizations. Conquest was wrong. Help was right. People got along.
I once had a conversation with my son about the original Star Trek, and how it differed from subsequent versions. In the original Star Trek, each show was a parable, a small morality tale, in which we were being taught about right and wrong. True, the writers were sometimes (often?) heavy handed with their messages. Nevertheless, through the interplay of the emotional Kirk, the logical Spock, and the pragmatic and sometimes cynical Bones or other characters, we saw different sides and different approaches to the same situation. Usually, the resolution came about through some combination of the first two, aided by the actions or intervention of the other characters.
I wonder how many nonprofit executives and philanthropists received their initial grounding in the possibilities of a better world through watching Star Trek. Is the idealism that surrounds so much of our work the product not just of faith and parenting, but also those small glimpses into a better world? Like M&Ms coated in sugar candy, the ideals were coated in action, costumes, and amusing interplay between characters whom we came to know and predict. We thought we were just watching a fun show, but we were being molded.
In retrospect, I suspect that I was affected by Star Trek; not just by the shows themselves, but by the implicit approval given to those messages by my parents as we watched together.
Looking around the table at board and staff meetings, do you know what has molded your colleagues? We now have four generations working and serving together. What television shows, books or movies formed their ideals? What are their cultural touchpoints? Through what lenses do they view the world?
A good board is not homogeneous. Each member brings their own history and ideals. What would it make possible if you were to create time to explore these cultural references together? What bonding might occur? Might understanding and then trust increase as the conversations unfolded?
Business can occur mechanically, or it can occur in an atmosphere of trust and camaraderie. Would could you accomplish if you took the time to learn about each other before embarking on the future?
Note: portions of this post were originally posted May 22, 2009.