Is academia a “no-win scenario”? Scholar Hero does the “impossible”

Getting a startup off the ground is a lot like taking the Kobayashi Maru. Getting an educational startup off the ground, however, is a lot like taking the Kobayashi Maru if you’re not Captain James T. Kirk.

Earlier this month, Greg Meyer of Information Maven wrote this article on why working on a startup is a lot like the Kobayashi Maru simulation test featured in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and the most recent 2009 re-boot film.

For the really uninitiated, the “Kobayashi Maru” is an unbeatable test, frequently described as depicting a “no-win scenario.” In the ostensible context of the film, the test examines how a Starfleet cadet responds under impossible circumstances and, ultimately, the potential commander that they will be.

The certificate remains blank for a reason… with one exception. (Source: http://www.ioffer.com/i/kobayashi-maru-certificate-star-trek-personalized-198799678)

How is the Kobayashi Maru like a startup?

For metaphorical purposes, Meyer applies the scenario to the archetypal startup:

“Startups are created with the purpose of becoming big, failing, or being bought. They seem feel like the proverbial no-win situation because everything has a competitor. If someone isn’t spending money with you, they are spending money on something else that they’ve probably been doing for a long time. And there’s so much noise everywhere. How can anyone possibly create something new?

Creating something new can take many forms. Like Kirk, the startup founders who solve this Kobayashi Maru problem change the rules of the simulation.”

In other words, startups need a James T. Kirk, someone who is incredibly agile, gifted at tactile thinking, and willing to “bend” the rules in order to claim victory. (He remains the only person in Star Trek history to ever “beat” the Kobayashi Maru.) Innovation comes in many forms, but it usually happens when someone will maneuver through the obstacles that they will inevitably face while trying to confront the status quo.

How is this relevant to Scholar Hero?

Do we have a James T. Kirk? We’d like to think we’re all carry an essence of Kirk within our hearts, but that means our challenge is to change the rules of the game. In our case, it’s academia, the space which we see to be ripe for much change. Unfortunately, academia is a space where:

  • There is a lot of resistance to change, perhaps moreso than most spaces of innovation
  • A lot of companies are also trying to change it, but their efforts are falling short
  • There are limited resources to devote towards any significant change
  • Forces beyond our control can completely marginalize our efforts, such as government policy or economic fluctuations

So can anything be done? Absolutely.

scholar hero fire

Heroes don’t ask what they can or can’t do; they only ask what they will or won’t. (Source: http://www.scholarhero.com)

What would James T. Kirk do? This is what we ask ourselves at the start of every day (seriously).

Even though we might be up against a much more adamant status quo, the size of the mountain should never deter whether or not we want to climate.

What we will do is change the system. We will find a way reconfigure the very essence of whatever is afflicted by the malady, or we will redefine the problem altogether if we must.

How will we do this? We have a lot of products in our backlog, but right now, we are proud of two in particular that we will debut in a few months and soon to our private beta testers. We’re on well on our way to make a huge impact!

Like many startups, Scholar Hero started with a strong sense of conviction towards the ability to change the world for the better. We are convinced that the change will happen out of a sheer necessity for the survival of the academic community.

And we are the ones to deliver that change.
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