What Your Companies Need to Learn from Sci-Fi

Business insights
Posted by Athena Parthenos

They say that if you are a geek, you are not very interested in sports. You could always say that cultural differences are something that really interests you. Even without reaching Sheldon Cooper’s level of expertise on the Klingon culture, if you have seen and enjoyed Star Wars, Star Trek, or Guardians of the Galaxy and the like, you are used to the coexistence of different cultures. If you dig deep enough into those kinds of movies, you come to realize that they contain quite a bit about civilization integration, recognition of cultural and language differences, and tradition acceptance. If you draw a parallel between our present society and the sci-fi world, you could argue that some sci-fi movies are like a company that gives special attention to aspects like internationalization and globalization—they take their know-how and adapt it to different languages, cultures, and even heroes in an attempt to create protagonists that suit everyone.

Even in the far distant future, there won’t be a single language to unify communications; translations will still be necessary in order to communicate across populations. Furthermore translators and interpreters will still be at work in many different situations: everyday life, diplomatic meetings, and even in sales. If we think about the Star Wars saga, each episode contains many interactions with aliens from all over the universe. Jabba the Hutt, for example, never communicates in English (remember the subtitles?), but this didn’t keep him from becoming one of the biggest gangsters/smugglers out there. Even more relevant in the entire saga is the role of C3PO, the funny gold-painted droid who ends up with Luke Skywalker after promoting himself as a translator for 88 different languages. C3PO might have been at the right place at the right time, but Skywalker benefitted a lot from the dorid as C3PO also translated all the information collected by R2D2 to help Luke on his journey. If you were out there saving the world from evil domination and the information you needed was just one language away, would you pass up C3PO’s help? Now imagine that you were just one language away from selling your product—would you pass up that opportunity too?

Sci-fi heroes never expect other populations to speak their language; instead, they adapt their communication and behavior to the other party to make sure the message is clearly understood. In sci-fi movies, there are always interactions with other populations in the universe, and it’s only natural that some communication difficulties come with each planet or population (because everyone maintains a level of independence and continues with tradition and languages). Therefore, survival and peaceful coexistence highly depend on having the right approach to other cultures. In the movie Star Trek: Into Darkness, when facing damage to the Enterprise, Kirk decides to land on a planet with Klingons. In order to guarantee the safety of the crew, Uhura approaches the hostile population speaking their language; her goal is to make them understand the importance of the Enterprise’s mission and their need to move on without starting a conflict. Can you find a better way to get the message across without using the language of the recipient?

Humans aren’t central, even if the story has been written by humans. If we compare the production of the movie to that of a company that exports its goods, it’s like the product being globalized for its possible audience. Even though the people that created the product are of a specific culture (in this case, humans), they make sure the product itself is full of cultural elements that allow other people to find a character they like who isn’t necessarily a human being. So, if we think about things with a sci-fi mind, the hero who saves the entire world isn’t always human. Guardians of the Galaxy, for example, is full of “others”: Gomorra, Drax the Destroyer, Groot, and Rocket Raccoon.

In the end, sci-fi realities are culturally aware of the difference among populations, and they try to keep those cultural elements available in the story. On Earth, we should do the same: remember that there are cultural differences, so something might have a meaning for some people but not for everybody. Concepts, colors, and even foods can have different significance on the other side of the border. Whenever we need to get a message across, the product has to look appealing (that is, if you want people to buy it). The idea that one culture and language fits all disregards all those nuances that enhance the world, and on the practical side, it won’t boost your sales.

Written by Noemi Clark CEO @ Athena Parthenos srl

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