5 lessons from ‘Star Wars’ that could transform startup executives’ strategies and tactics – businesstraverse.com

‘I have a bad feeling about this’ are actually words to live by

As leader of the Jedi council in the “Star Wars” universe, Yoda was essentially their CEO.

His job was to see the future, a talent specifically honed by the visionary warrior monks, and yet he consistently allowed his vision to be clouded by the dark side of the Force. Despite his power, experience, authority and wisdom, Yoda was shockingly bad at understanding what was happening around him until it was too late.

For ten years, the Jedi Grand Master worked directly with the Dark Lord of the Sith, Darth Sidious, who hid under Yoda’s nose as the Supreme Chancellor of the Galactic Republic. Yoda’s inability to recognize changes as they happened resulted in the rise of Palpatine’s empire and the rethinking of an entire culture’s way of life.

What did Yoda do when confronted by confusing facts and suspicious clues? He retired to his rooms to meditate, but he took no action.

Yes, Yoda has Kodaked

Unfortunately, this is all too common under the leadership of incumbent companies. Many executives pretend that they believe that good times will never end or that they don’t care.

Whether the example is the CEO of Kodak rejecting digital photography or the CEO of Blockbuster who infamously downplays the threat from Netflix, it seems there is always another industry leader blissfully ignoring the wind of change.

“I have a bad feeling about this” are words leaders should live by, because the joke shows awareness and proactiveness.

Unlike Yoda, Jedi Knight Obi-Wan Kenobi combined insight and action to maintain hope for the future.

Seeing the future is also the goal of startup founders, business leaders and venture capitalists. With that in mind, here are five lessons from Obi-Wan Kenobi’s heroic actions, and how both corporate and startup executives can apply these ideas to devise transformational strategies and tactics:

Find problems before they start by collecting street-level data

When the Sith criticize the Jedi for their arrogance, their argument is justified because Yoda, the leader of the Jedi, has lost contact. The Jedi Council sits in a literal ivory tower and sends Obi-Wan Kenobi on missions. As one of the Jedi’s top field agents, he can gather first-hand information to help understand what is happening in the republic. It is Kenobi who first discovers that Darth Tyranus is actually Count Dooku during the Clone Wars, and he continues to pull on the threads of every clue he finds, always in a quest to learn more. Likewise, it is Kenobi who travels to Kamino in Episode II to unravel the mystery of the clone army.

The lesson for innovators is that you cannot meditate on the road to organizational change. The “Star Wars” chorus, “I have a bad feeling about this,” could equate to Only the Paranoid Survive, Intel co-founder Andy Grove. Grove’s definition of paranoia can be interpreted as meaning that it is important to pay attention at all times. This means dissatisfied with a lack of clarity and researching getting street-level information about markets, customers, and the state of everyone’s capabilities.

In practical terms, street-level data means companies have to meet many potentially disruptive startups, and startups have to meet with potentially complementary or competing companies. Each needs to meet as many clients and potential clients as possible.

Be brave and decisive

Obi-Wan tracks down General Grievous on Utapau in Episode III. While the Separatist cyborg leader has killed dozens of Jedi, the vastly outnumbered Kenobi realizes he must take the risk of confronting Grievous. He leaps from above amid dozens of enemy droids, delivering a line that has become meme fodder: “Hello, there.”