02/18/17

Star Trek Ideals and Family Business

It’s a well-known fact that since its first airing in 1966, the Star Trek series has inspired generations of young people to become scientists. YouTube abounds with videos of astrophysicists; theoretical physicists; astronomers; cosmologists; giving lectures, taking part in conferences, presenting their latest findings. And in video after video, the scientists invoke their debt to Star Trek.

Star Trek’s optimistic view of the future continues to bring young people into careers where they see themselves helping to make that future a reality. In a way, the Star Trek world might be seen as a global business owned and operated by and for the family of mankind, one with diversity, innovation, communication, cooperation and courage.

The Star Trek world has similarities to well-established multi-generational family businesses. It has a far-seeing vision. It has a mission, and it has uplifting values. It encourages innovation—often the very lifeline for survival. Among long-lived family businesses can be found perhaps, some of the ideals that Star Trek showcases; a zest for exploration, flexibility, loyalty, job placement by virtue of inborn talents and acquired skills, mutual respect, integrity in leadership.

Could this kind of view, and these types of ideals, inspire your family’s young people to seek their place and their careers within your family business? What kind future do they see? Is it one they can wish to help realize?

11/26/16

Diversity and Success

I recently heard Jennifer Brown, author, Tedx-Talk speaker and entrepreneur, talk about the social and economic advantages associated with diversity. 

In her new book, Inclusion, Diversity, the New Workplace & the Will to Change, Jennifer calls upon people who can drive change to embrace diversity. She argues that when we build systems that embrace diversity in all its forms, we directly impact the bottom line; and that diversity is essential for the viability and sustainability of every organization.

She identifies a bias toward our own thinking and our propensity to go with sameness as challenges to diversity. Importantly, she recognizes that diversity issues cover much more than race and gender. They extend to areas of leadership, our relationships, and collective customs.

Her talk got me thinking about challenges to diversity in family enterprises as they transition from one generation to the next. The leadership style of the founders may be significantly different from that of the next generations, and a stubborn prejudice in favor of one style can be detrimental to the future success of the business and the family. It’s important that family-business leaders recognize that the marketplace and the social environment will continually evolve. Different conditions will inevitably call upon different natural abilities in next-generation family members.

The hard-driving dominance of a founder who grew the business making tough decisions may differ from the relationship-style of the next family leader–a style perhaps now needed to carry the business and the family through the next generation.