Kobayashi Maru, A No Win Scenario…

No Win or Win/Win?

In the fictional universe of Star Trek, there were many learning’s as the master story teller Gene  Roddenberry created the ultimate mindscape in which to play out life’s many scenarios in a timeless kind of way. Even with the many firsts for its time, including the first interracial kiss on television stand out as cutting edge for the time. The one piece of Trek folklore which has always fascinated me was the infamous “Kobayashi Maru reference. Since it was always alluded to as part of Kirk’s (Captain James T. Kirk) mystique, as being a cunning success bordering on the impossible.

As a kid growing up, this mystique was “cool” and coupled with an exotic name like “Kobayashi Maru” made it all the better in a youngsters mind.  However as I grew older, the Kobayashi Maru concept grew more and more prominent as life tossed me even more challenges as it has a habit of doing.

However before we go there, for those who may not know, Kobayashi Maru in fictional terms is a Starfleet training exercise designed to test the character of cadets on the command track.  The goal of the simulation is to rescue the civilian vessel Kobayashi Maru by potentially endangering the cadets own ship and crews lives or leave the distressed ship to certain destruction. The difficulty to assist the Kobayashi Maru revolves around the issue of the disabled ship’s location in the neutral zone.   Where entrance into would constitute an act of war with the Klingon’s (the nemeses of earth and its allies).

With this said, the premise of the exercise  is to present a situation in which there is no way to win the resulting battle; the simulation then ends with the cadet’s ship having been lost with all hands. The idea behind engagement is not to test the cadet’s ability to outfight the opponent but rather their reaction to a “no-win” situation.  Kind of sounds like life doesn’t it?

In the case of James Kirk, his fame came as he reprogrammed the simulation computer system to allow him to beat the “game” which raised uproar in both the fictional as well as the real world.  As some pundits said he cheated, while others said he was an original thinker. My view even as a youngster has always been a bit different if you will.  This is best explained in one of Kirks exchanges as he is asked if , “you never faced that situation. Faced Death.”  Whereas Kirk’s retort was, “I don’t believe in the no-win scenario.”  This is a key statement, as in my mind there isn’t such a thing as “no-win” situations because the question becomes what is the “win”.

Bringing this discussion back from the fictional fringe, one of the first rules a management team learns about me is what is referred to as the “Kobayashi Maru Axiom is a rule not an option.  What does this mean then?  In short, don’t bring no-win scenarios to the table because as a manger you need to be skilled enough to rewrite the rules.  Also yes, while rules aren’t meant to be broken, they surely were meant to be rewritten as that’s how they came into existence in the first place, right?

While harking back to the 1960’s we see that Captain Kirk was one of the original (at least fictionally) out of the box thinkers.  This ability coupled with his innate confidence in himself allowed him to drive change into every journey he under took.   As in your daily life I can guarantee there are “rules” which were either made up or just arbitrary and are simply waiting to be rewritten.  It’s also important to put on the table that its easer to present a “no-win” situation as it then becomes simply a means of “passing the buck” rather than taking action.

So the next time your faced with a no-win encounter, instead of thinking single mindedly, look for the rules you can rewrite to achieve your goal.   As while there may seem to be daunting roadblocks in your way you need to face them with full challenge and resolve rather than compliancy.  Above all else, remember the “Kobayashi Maru Axiom”…

About Joseph Campbell

As a strong believer in the fact that "people work for people", it has been a life driver to better to understand the complexities of the various aspects which drive efficiency within this axiom, especially the concepts of leadership. Supporting this, I have been fortunate enough to having experienced this as leader on a global basis over the last decade and half. During this time it has been clear there are three core drivers being Life, Leadership and Economics.
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1 Response to Kobayashi Maru, A No Win Scenario…

  1. Pingback: There are Truthmakers Among Us… | The Viral Loop…

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