Sunday, July 13, 2008

Star Trek, Me Kirk Spock and Drucker

It wasn’t till now that I realized the main reason why I am such a Star Trek fan. Of course, I loved the fantasy and the action and all the obvious Star Trek stuff. I liked to imagine different worlds and how I’d react to things. Let me give you a free form idea of where my thinking came from today.

First at 8am this Sunday morning I went to McDonalds downtown for my 7th weekly Conservative Coffee of the City of Muskegon, and as usual no one attended but me. I’m getting used to that and now spend a quiet hour catching up on my political reading. Today it was “The Effective Executive” by Peter F. Drucker. I’m only on the 2nd chapter which is defining what effectiveness is in the executive setting. This book is great, it is simple and effective.

Drucker explains the difference between idea people and the people who carry out those ideas. Let us say the shoe factory executive and the actual shoe maker. He points out how the two have become different. But while they may be different people, the success of the executive is measured by the effectiveness of producing a shoe people will buy in the outside world. The shoe maker artisan of the past was responsible for making a shoe that was not only mechanically good but artistically pleasing in order to sell it. Now there is no one person who is the maker. But a group who put the pieces together. The Shoe Factory. The market is not the one person asking for one type specific, but the total shoe market. That is the way it is good or bad. The Executive must be effective to be successful. Drucker makes the case that it is a given that a shoe company has to be run efficiently to be a player in the market. The executive is there primarily not to do that but to give an overall reason why their shoes are better than the others. He is the idea man, the driver of the corporate reason for existence. The one who picks what new styles will sell. He will be judged in the real world for how well his shoes sell. That will be the measure of his effectiveness.

Drucker points out the dilemma executives face in trying to change what they are in charge of, the factory. The factory demands the status quo. The factory demands that they not change things based on keeping the internal workings smoothly running. While not necessarily worrying about where it is running toward. Success or failure. He shows the tightrope the Executive must walk between satisfying the inner workings with what the outside reality demands. I think of Lee Iaacoca and Chrysler as a good example.

This constant battle between the “collective” good of the group, vs. the freedom of the individual and their individual good, bring me back to what always intrigues me about Star Trek. Spock is a being entirely fact driven. His decisions are based upon the facts within the parameters of the decision to be made. Then there is Captain Kirk. His decisions are more like those the Executive faces. He must accept the facts from Spock as true and accurate, but also see to it that they combine with the reality of the larger picture. During one of the Star Trek movies, Spock is dying after sacrificing himself for the good of the crew, as he lies dying he tells Kirk that his suicide is justified by the idea of the Good of the Many OVER the good of the one. Kirk replies or the Good of the One FOR the good of the many.

This seemingly silly human frailty, “Individual Freedom”, Spock can not incorporate into his decision making process. His inability to base his decisions in the reality of the world outside his own, is the reason Drucker would suggest is why Kirk usually wins the argument in the end and is the Captain. I would note here also that McCoy the doctor who is constantly making fun of Spock is not the Captain either. Kirk makes perfect use of the facts in house and rewards them properly then applies them to the bigger reality. This constant interplay is what I find interesting. Of course blowing a Klingon war bird out of the sky occasionally is great fun too.

As the institutions of the World become larger, from government to business, I see the danger that the Captain Kirk’s of the world are being overrun by the Spock’s. The quantitative in this computer age is overwhelming the qualitative. I believe the constant drumbeat of “Throw the Bums Out” regardless of party is a reflection of the lack of personalization in the institutions that control our lives. Not to mention that they do control our lives more and more. Politics and our individual right to vote for our leaders is all we have left between our just becoming a number. It may not be much but it is something, outside of armed rebellion it is all we have. In this time I have, I’m trying to do what I can. I’m voting for smaller, more efficient, and less intrusive government. Right or wrong I want to be my own Executive.

Regards, Live Dangerously Be A Conservative

PS The other aspect that I loved about Star Trek was it’s sense of humor. Humor is a human qualitative thing. I was reminded this weekend of the absolute necessity of a sense of humor to make our way through this life, by the passing of one who was always optimistic in his view of the world. Of one who could bring common sense with a smile to the most heated of rhetorical debates. I of course refer to Tony Snow. He will be missed. He has served as inspiration to many.
God, bless him, and share Your Grace on his family

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