30 Jan ‘14


Kobayashi Maru

30 Jan ‘14

In: Business, Inspiration, Something else, else, / By: Chris Simental

The phrase Kobayshi Maru may sound like a trendy Japanese philosophy such as Kaizen (the philosophy or practice of continuous improvement) but it actually comes from the science fiction movie Star Trek II:The Wrath of Khan (1982). The movie stars, alongside the usual 80s Star Trek cast, a shorn-chest-flaunting Ricardo Montalban reprising his role as Khan. Truth be told, I’ve been wanting to write a blog post about this movie for quite some time. Having watched it at the impressionable age of 11, it has always had a special place in my Sci-Fi repetiore. Memorable scenes from the film include this line from Kahn to Captain Kirk:

“I’ve done far worse than kill you, Admiral. I’ve hurt you. And I wish to go on…hurting you.”

To which Kirk replies, simply:


Of course, at this point in the movie (spoiler alert!) we think that’s the end of Kirk and his crew. But what kind of Star Trek film would it be if it ended that way? No, this is not the end of Kirk. We find out later that he already has a plan in place for this very eventuality. Which brings me to…

Kobahashi Maru. It’s a training exercise in the Star Trek universe. The primary goal of the test is to rescue the civilian vessel Kobayashi Maru in a simulated battle with the Klingons. Cadets must decide whether to attempt rescue of the Kobayashi Maru crew—thereby endangering their own ship and lives—or leave the Kobayashi Maru to certain destruction. It’s described as a no-win scenario because either choice has dire consequences. The exercise is designed to test the character of the cadets and assess how they react to tough situations where there’s no happy ending.

We find out through the course of Star Trek II that Captain Kirk took the test three times while at Starfleet Academy. But, before his third attempt, Kirk surreptitiously reprogrammed the simulator so that it was possible to rescue the Kobayashi Maru; thus winning the no-win scenario. And, even though he technically cheated, he was awarded a commendation for “original thinking.”

It is this point of “original thinking” that gives me a reason (finally!) to work Wrath of Khan into a blog post. At Ripe, we are often faced with what seem to be no-win scenarios. You know, clients saying things like: “I want it cheap, I want it fast, and I want to do something that’s never been done before.” Typically these three goals cannot co-exist. However, through clever brainstorming, re-prioritization of desired outcomes, and tapping into our vast pool of experience, we can make the seemingly impossible, possible. We CAN rescue the Kobayashi Maru AND make it out alive. And we do this sort of thing on a daily basis.

Original thinking is not easy. Out-thinking your competition is even harder. But we believe thinking hard and creating outstanding solutions is much more rewarding than simply following the status quo.

And now I leave you with another favorite Khan quote about Kirk. (Incidentally, this one is one of a couple of quotes in the film that are bastardized from Herman Melville’s Moby Dick).

“He tasks me. He tasks me and I shall have him! I’ll chase him ’round the moons of Nibia and ’round the Antares Maelstrom and ’round perdition’s flames before I give him up!”

Now, go forth and think originally.

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