One Cause At a Time – Archive

An Archive of Chicago Now One Cause at a Time Posts

Posts Tagged ‘star trek

Celebrating the Gene Roddenberry Centennial and Star Trek

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Today marks the 100th anniversary of Gene Roddenberry’s birth. As the creator of Star Trek, his humanistic values have had a great influence on many nonprofit, social enterprise, and other business professionals.

As one of those professionals who have been influenced by this work, I thought it might be a great opportunity to highlight some of the Star Trek-influenced posts (and other media) that have appeared on this blog over the years. Enjoy!

We’ll have another post (a very timely book review) uploaded next week, but until then, please leave comments below, visit our Facebook page, or email us directly.

And as always, live long and prosper.


Written by gordondym

August 19, 2021 at 6:45 pm

Posted in Commentary, Mobile, Reading

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BOOK REVIEW: Star Trek – The Klingon Art of War

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Two things have kept me busy in the past few months: new employment and Star Trek. Reengaging with past Star Trek series (mostly Deep Space Nine and Enterprise) has reminded me how much the franchise has affected my life as well as inspired several Star Trek-themed blog posts). So I came across The Klingon Art of War (not an affiliate link), I was curious about whether it would be a similar-themed leadership guide for nonprofits and social enterprise as Wess Roberts’ Make It So: Leadership Lessons from Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Although it is less didactic than Make It SoStar Trek – The Klingon Art of War functions as a smart, savvy reworking of Sun Tzu’s The Art of War. Organized into ten “principles” with related stories, Klingon Art of War serves less as a practical leadership guide and more of a metaphorical exploration into leadership strategy. (In fairness, author Keith R.A. Candido’s intention was focused on highlighting Klingon history and lore, not focusing on business leadership). However, recontextualizing Sun Tzu’s theories through a Klingon perspective provides an easier way to understand. (Especially given the high prevalence of “honor” in Klingon society which could easily be translated into “integrity” in our present times).


Even for those working remotely (like me) and dealing with COVID-19 related issues, The Klingon Art of War provides some strong ideas about personal conduct. Despite harsh-sounding phrases like “Choose Your Enemies Well” and “Always Die Standing Up”, Star Trek – The Klingon Art of War promotes a positive, straightforward approach to handling matters. Even the book’s main narrative conceit – a Klingon scholar describing his reaction to these stories – provides insight into how text can be interpreted and misinterpreted. As much as Sun Tzu’s The Art of War focused on strategy and winning every battle, Star Trek – The Klingon Art of War focuses on personal integrity and perceptions of situations. Although it isn’t a substitute for other resources, Star Trek – The Klingon Art of War provides a metaphorical exploration of living with integrity.

For Star Trek fans, The Klingon Art of War also provides some great background on Klingon culture and society within the series. Several appendices explain Klingon weapons, a practical application of Klingon principles, and understanding a historical context. Although it may seem frivolous to give meaning to tie-in literature, Star Trek – The Klingon Art of War cannot help but feel appropriate during this time. With several Star Trek series attempting to deconstruct Trek lore, The Klingon Art of War (published in 2014) reconstructs Klingon lore into a great mix of insightful tie-in literature and practical guide.

I highly recommend Star Trek – The Klingon Art of War for nonprofit and social enterprise leaders, Star Trek fans, and people looking for an entertaining diversion.

For now, though, I am now considering taking Klingon language lessons thanks to this book.

Have comments? Please leave them below or join the conversation on our Facebook page. If you wish to email me, use this contact form.

And thanks for reading!

Written by gordondym

September 1, 2020 at 8:11 am

Book Review: TREKONOMICS – The Economics of STAR TREK

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Much of my professional career (working with nonprofits, social enterprise, and private clients), as well as my personal philosophy, has been shaped by Star Trek. Whether adopting leadership lessons from Jean-Luc Picard or ethical principles based on the Federation, I have always gravitated towards Trek’s values (second only to those of Doctor Who). So when a recent YouTube video on the economics of Star Trek name-checked Trekonomics: The Economics of Star Trek by Manu Saadia, I was intrigued enough to check out the book for myself.

As someone who finds higher-level economic theory relatively dry, I thoroughly enjoyed Trekonomics. Far from being a how-to-get-there guide, Saadia uses Star Trek as an endpoint for this theoretical exploration. Focusing primarily on Star Trek: The Next Generation and its follow-ups, Saada explores the implication of various types of technology (like replicators) and the change in attitudes around wealth and money. (As Saadia himself states, the original Star Trek series mentioned currency, commerce, and other economic factors. Balancing both economic theory and fannish enthusiasm, Trekonomics explores the greater meaning of how an “ideal” world like the Federation might emerge. With the growing conversation about Universal Basic Income, our society appears to be moving slightly towards a shift in perspective.


In many ways, however, Trekonomics feels like a very well-considered argument of support for another book featured on this blog. As much as Winners Take All by Anand Girharadas highlighted the ways in which “elites” fail at social change, Trekonomics provides insights into the end goal. (Granted, it assumes that the society of  Star Trek was fully conceived rather than enhanced by scriptwriters and production crew). Even though the book can feel a bit draggy at times, Trekonomics does a very good job in providing a slightly fan-oriented theoretical base to a fictional economy.

So why review this book? Many nonprofits, social enterprises, and individuals are driven to foster social good and social benefit. Frequently, they engage in utopian thinking without considering the consequences or believe that their actions have minimal consequences. One of the advantages of Trekonomics: The Economics of Star Trek is that it successfully reverse engineers such a society, examining the attitudes that could move society forward towards such a future.

It’s also a really good read for any Star Trek fan, and it’s highly recommended.

Please feel free to join us on Facebook or leave your comments below…and as always, thanks for reading!

Written by gordondym

September 22, 2019 at 7:50 pm

More Nonprofit (and Life) Lessons from STAR TREK

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Earlier today, I made a guest appearance on WBEZ’s Morning Shift to discuss the 50th Anniversary of the original series of Star TrekThe idea was simple: discuss the lessons I had learned growing up watching the show.

(Really – I came of age during the beginning of syndication, and I’ve not only discussed the show on WBEZ in the past…I’ve also written several Star Trekrelated posts for this blog).

One of the areas that I touched upon in the conversation was how, as a nonprofit professional, the show influenced my own attitudes around social justice and social conscience. However, I think Star Trek contains many lessons that resonate not only within my own work in community organizing (and yes, I can draw a straight line between Star Trek and community organizing around tobacco prevention), but that I think have important resonance for other Chicago-area nonprofit and social enterprise professionals in their work….and their life.

So, just a few nonprofit (and life) lessons from Star Trek:

  • Missions matter…and knowing your mission is critical: One of the great aspects of Star Trek was that its mission statement was built into the fabric of the program. To quote: “Our…mission: to explore strange new worlds. To seek out new life and new civilizations. To boldly go where no man has gone before”. Yes, it reflects the show’s 1960s-era times (and would later be amended to “where no one has gone before”), but Star Trek wasn’t just a show that took place in space – it had an organizing philosophy (unlike its competition Lost in Space). Knowing your organization’s mission – and defining your personal mission – can often mean the difference between getting by and moving forward.
  • Everyone is capable of both great good and great malice…and professionals learn to how to manage both capacities: Episodes like The Enemy Within and Mirror, Mirror show (in dramatic terms) how people often have two sides to their character, and that character assets in one context can be character defects in another. As nonprofit professionals, we can easily forget that we’re expected to always be noble, positive….but that the best of us work to integrate those negative impulses. And like Mr. Spock, we can work to integrate our emotional and intellectual selves in a unique manner.
  • Diversity and inclusion aren’t just phrases – they’re active principles: Many cite Star Trek‘s diverse cast as a touchstone for its futuristic thinking….but I would like to go one better and suggest that Star Trek‘s stories promoted the idea of healthy diversity. Journey to Babel highlighted differences between various alien races while in the midst of a crisis. Day of the Dove and Devil in the Dark focused on accepting differences, and how divisiveness never benefits anyone directly. (If you’ve been following the current Presidential race, Day of the Dove seems very timely). Nonprofits and social enterprise are both committed to the idea of diversity, but it means full diversity in ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, and thought. Star Trek provides some great early – yet critical – thinking about these issues.
  • “Genius doesn’t come on an assembly line basis – you can’t simply say, ‘Today I will be brilliant'” –  Many nonprofit/social enterprise professionals struggle with both integrating new technology and maintaining a specific level of creativity and innovation. As this quote from The Ultimate Computer suggests, innovation and creativity are not traits that can be brought on demand, but require time, thought, and effort. Like many other nonprofit & social enterprise professionals, I find myself frustrated because I’m not being “creative enough”…but this quote reminds me that creativity and innovation require work.

Many of us who work in the nonprofit/social enterprise field find ourselves challenged to make a greater impact on the community with limited resources. However, as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the original Star Trek series, we can find many great lessons that the show can teach us about our work. Let’s end with a famous quote from Return to Tomorrow – although focused on space travel, Kirk’s words about risk make it clear that despite our challenges, driving social change is definitely worth the effort:

What are your thoughts on Star Trek’s 50th Anniversary? You’re more than welcome to join the conversation via the comments below or on our Facebook page. You can receive updates via e-mail (instructions below), or contact me personally either through the One Cause At A Time About page or this Contact Me form.

And as always, thanks for reading!

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Written by gordondym

September 8, 2016 at 5:10 pm

Nonprofit Leadership Lessons from STAR TREK

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Books on nonprofit leadership often run the gamut from very high-level treatises to more down-to-earth entries like The Mission Myth and Who Says It’s A Man’s World? However, in an increasingly complex field, transitioning into nonprofit leadership (as well as social enterprise and other mission-driven leadership) can be a challenge. In fact, for many, it’s a challenge to boldly go where they have not gone before.

Thankfully, there is such a book….and it uses Star Trek (celebrating its 50th anniversary) as a metaphor.  Although written around general business leadership, Star Trek – Make It So: Leadership Lessons from Star Trek: The Next Generation by Wess Roberts, Ph.D and Bill Ross (available in softcover and Kindle) provides some excellent insights and practical guidance for mission-driven and nonprofit leadership.

(As many long-time readers of this blog know, I’m more than willing to use television and pop culture – especially Star Trek – to discuss issues around social change. In addition, I recently participated in DePaul University’s Celebration of Star Trek in May, and I’ll be on WBEZ’s Morning Edition on Friday, July 8th to discuss the franchise…NOTE: You can click here to listen/download the segment.)

Written from the perspective of Captain Jean-Luc Picard, Make It So provides scenarios taken directly from episodes of Star Trek: the Next Generation. For each scenario, there’s a description of the issues, followed by a list of “Observations” then “Lessons”. By placing these Star Trek episodes within the context of leadership lessons, Make It So provides the reader an opportunity to explore critical issues with greater perspective. (After all, isn’t Star Trek noted for its ability to handle stories that “reflect on the human condition”? It’s a rather easy-to-read book that provides a simple point-of-entry for exploring the key responsibilities and values behind professional leadership).Picard

(For those interested in nonprofit leadership, the humanistic tone of Make It So will be especially appealing with its less aggressive, more humanistic tone. Unlike other books on leadership, such as perennial classic The Art of War or Roberts’ own Leadership Secrets of Attila the HunMake It So makes the most of its Star Trek framework, presenting high-minded ideas in a much more realistic context. Rather than make the reader feel less than capable, Make It So makes the case that leadership – especially mission-driven and nonprofit leadership – are lofty goals for anyone to strive towards. This more positive tone, as well as its use of Star Trek as metaphor, is that gives Make It So particular resonance for mission-driven and nonprofit leaders).

To be fair, I’ve not only read Make It So, but I’ve also used the book for guidance in my own efforts in nonprofit leadership.  Having grown up with Star Trek, I find many of the show’s values and morals very compatible with my own. I’ve used Make It So as a leadership touchstone – a way for me to think differently about various situations. Although other books about leadership take on a more formal tone,  the tone of Make It So provides greater resonance for those entering leadership positions. (For nonprofit leadership, navigating new responsibilities can be challenging, and Make It So makes the process much easier).

With Star Trek celebrating its 50th anniversary, it is easy to focus on television and movie content. But one of the remarkable aspects of Star Trek is how it tells stories that reflect a multitude of human experiences.  Star Trek – Make It So: Leadership Lessons from Star Trek: The Next Generation by Wess Roberts, Ph.D and Bill Ross provides an excellent example of how Star Trek philosophy can be applied towards other endeavors – most notably mission-driven and nonprofit leadership.

It’s definitely a book worth reading.

Do you have any thoughts about Star Trek‘s impact on nonprofit work and social change? Do you have any great book recommendations that impact the Chicago area social change community? Please feel free to let us know via the comments section below, or join us in further conversation via our Facebook page.  If you want to reach me privately, simply use this “Contact Me” form or any other method listed on this blog’s About page)

And as always, thanks for reading!

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Written by gordondym

July 7, 2016 at 8:43 am

The Final Frontier: Making Data Matter Locally

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Sometimes – just sometimes – there are people working in web development who do it right.

One of the big challenges about merging tech and social good is making open data easily accessible and readable. Very few of us (myself included) are able to create web interfaces that allow us to digest information. But much like the beloved android  from Star Trek: The Next Generation, two services are helping to build their communities by placing data in a very easy-to-use context. (With increasing awareness around issues of digital literacy, these sites are sorely needed steps in the right direction).

The first is actually a project involving David Eads of Free Geek Chicago. The site – – aggregates a variety of data into a clickable map showing crime rates in various Chicago neighborhoods. It’s a very user friendly resource, allowing people to determine the relative safety of their neighborhoods. It’s a nice way for people to access publicly available data in a nice, easy-to-use manner.

However, one of the best resources to use (both in Chicago and for various other cities) is Although initially it started as an aggregator for local data, it’s morphed into a Yelp-like forum. Users can ask questions, find out about neighborhood happenings, and really provide some great information in a very easy-to-use context. (On a personal level, I have used this for both professional and personal reasons).

But there’s one things that web-based services like these provide: they help community residents boldly go where few have gone before  – exploring the final frontier of community data.

Interested in some upcoming events? Please join me at the September 11th Net Tuesday meeting as well as the September 20th Chicago Geek Breakfast. Otherwise, please feel free to contact me via LinkedIn or my web site’s contact page.

Thanks for reading, and have a great weekend!

Written by gordondym

September 7, 2012 at 7:29 am