A recurring theme in Star Trek is the Mirror Universe: A parallel world where everything is upside down: Honorable characters are scheming villains and the audience can quickly recognize evil characters because they now sport a goatee.
I often use this Mirror Universe as a powerful and fun exercise to help a team think differently about how to improve their organization.
This is how the Mirror Universe exercise works:
- Imagine you’re a new hire in your own organization and your colleagues expect you to add value. In reality you’re a secret operator paid by the competition. Your actual job is to drive the organization into the ground. The only limitation is that you cannot take any action that will get you fired on the spot.
- Next, think about the most creative initiatives and actions you would take, which look good, but in reality will throw a monkey wrench into the organizational machinery. For example, propose a strict purchasing procedure to increase control and reduce risks. You will notice that the team becomes very creative when asked to destroy a business or organization.
- Once you have made the list of destructive initiatives, ask the team to turn their thinking around: “What would happen if we would do the exact opposite?” This question is the gateway to actionable initiatives to improve.
High performance is not about the difference between good and bad initiatives: It’s about the difference between good initiatives and the best initiatives.
The Mirror Universe exercise is a powerful way to make this distinction clear.
PS: Wearing a goatee while plotting the demise of your organization is optional.