How Star Trek’s Mission Statement Can Teach You Business Focus

By: admin | 7 Jan 2014

Happy New Year!

I am delighted to start the year with another superb guest post from Mandy Naylor from Latent Promise…

After an evening with my brother last week watching some of his favourite Star  Trek DVDs  (I’ve learned to go with it over the years), I was struck by a link to what I’d been covering in a workshop from earlier that day.

Even if you’re not a die-hard Star Trek fan like he is, I bet most of you can recall the words that kicked off every episode of the original series…

‘…its five year mission, to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before!’

Setting aside the intervening women’s liberation movement that (rightly) changed ‘no man’ to ‘no-one’, this is a pretty good mission statement.

  1. It’s clear – nice and short, no long words.
  2. It uses the rule of three – people tend to remember things better if you group them in threes (a technique used widely by Steve Jobs of Apple – watch his presentations to spot this in action);
  3. It’s a call to action. Who wouldn’t want to be part of that?

I’ve read a lot of Mission Statements over the years. The usual mistake is that people make them too long and try to incorporate everything they do, rather than what they and their organisation stands for.

In fact it’s rare to talk to staff in an organisation who can actually recall what their Mission Statement is!

So…why do we advisors go on about having one?

Well, there are some very clear benefits:

It helps you keep on track

If ever the crew of the Enterprise were unsure whether to tackle a tricky situation, they came back to ‘we’re here to explore, so that’s what we’ll do’.

If you don’t know what your organisation stands for, how will you know whether that new market is right for you?

How will you spot the diversions as well as the opportunities? Link them back to your Mission Statement, and you’ll know if they’re right for you or not.

It helps build your brand.

Keep it short and catchy, and your staff will come to learn it and repeat it to customers and others.

The words you use are important – notice how many times ‘new’ appears in Star Trek’s Mission Statement.

Repeat key phrases that you want people to associate with your offering
(but not in a way that looks like you’re trying to hypnotise them).

It speaks to something deeper

Your Mission Statement should hopefully awake an emotional response in the reader that links them to your offer.

I appreciate this is easier when you’re a space explorer rather than a widget manufacturer,but it’s still possible.

Use adverbs and adjectives as well as verbs and nouns (Translation: tell people how you do something as well as what it is you do.) ‘Strange’, ‘new’ and ‘boldly’ are the hooks that get you in Star Trek’s MS – not ‘worlds’ ‘go’ and ‘life’. Take the adverbs and adjectives out, and it becomes lifeless.

So have a go. Keep it short, try it on a few other people, and keep tweaking – you’ll know when you’ve got it right.

Oh, and you don’t have to call it a mission statement…

Call it a goal, a vision or a reason for existence – but have one…or how will you know where you are going?

You can read more from Mandy at her blog Latent Promise here