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Innovators as Star Trek:

What We Learn from Episode 62 

By Shlomo Maital   

  Episode 62 Spectre of the Gun




In episode 62 of Star Trek (from its third season),  “Spectre of the Gun”, one of the top ten episodes of all time, the plot is as follows:  

   Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Scotty and Chekov are transported to a planet that has all of the trappings of the Old West.   It’s 1881 and Kirk soon realizes exactly where they are: in Tombstone, Arizona on the day of the famed gunfight at the OK Corral between the Clanton gang and the Earps.   The only problem is that Kirk and company represent the Clantons and if history is to be repeated, they will all be killed. They use whatever resources are available to them to defeat the enemy but the solution, and the only way of escape, lies within them.    The trap is placed by the planet’s inhabitants, the Malcotians, who are testing the ‘earthlings’ to see if they kill others, even when defending themselves.  A ‘yes’ answer would bring their destruction.

  It is half-human Dr. Spock who reveals the solution.  The ‘bullets’ are not real, he says. But they kill us because we believe they do. Only if we believe, beyond a shred of doubt, that the bullets are unreal, will we survive.  As a perfectly rational being, super-human, he KNOWS the bullets are unreal. But his human colleagues? They have doubts. And the tiniest doubt will kill them.  In the end, the Star Trek explorers do believe, and the bullets of the Earps  do not harm them.  Kirk bashes Wyatt Earp, pulls his gun, readies himself to shoot him..and stops.  This, the Malcotians reveal, is why they agree to meet with the Star Trek explorers rather than destroy them.

   I think there is a parable here for innovators.  If you have a great idea, then test it, put its feet to the fire, examine every possible flaw, from every possible angle.  Do this, in order to eliminate the tiniest shred of doubt. Because if you doubt, if you fear failure, those around you will sense it – and the fear itself will bring failure, just like the Star Trek crew at the OK Corral.  Entrepreneurs I meet who have near-impossible ideas believe with utter confidence in their success.  And that confidence itself is a perception that shapes reality, just as with Episode 62. 


Blog entries written by Prof. Shlomo Maital

Shlomo Maital
May 2012
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