Lesson 070: Danger of idle hands and minds
TV Series: Star Trek - The Next Generation
Season/Episode: 2/11 ('Contagion')


The Enterprise encounters ship-wide systems problems, which stalls almost all activity on the ship, including weapons availability and propulsion system. Adding panic to the situation is the confrontational presence of a Romulan war ship.

As tensions on board rise to very high levels, Cmdr. Riker, left in charge of the ship, asks the ship's Counselor Troi for recommendations for calming down the crew. Troi suggests giving everyone on board something to do, something which will focus their attention away from the prevailing problems.

Riker approves Troy's recommendation and orders a ship-wide task of preparing for full evacuation of the Enterprise. Even though evacuation to the planet below is virtually impossible given the current condition of the ship, the assignment, nevertheless, gives everyone some critical task to perform.


If idle hands tend to end up in mischief, then idle minds always result in non-constructive thoughts. In the event of a crisis, idle hands and minds never bring about calm, but rather further fuel the panic.

In any organization, when confronted by an emergency situation, the leadership must not allow panic to sweep through everyone. Clear, decisive orders and directions from management will calm nerves and maintain order.

Beyond this initial reactionary phase, the goal of attacking the problems confronted must be tackled with thought given to all the people within the organization.

Even though there may only be a few key resources who will be assigned to the actual problem areas, it would be detrimental to ignore the rest of the people in the organization, especially if they are impacted by the crisis. Left alone, they will mostly speculate, conjecture and even gossip about the situation, usually spreading further panic through rumors.

One sure fire cure for this is exactly as Counselor Troi suggested - give everyone something to do. If they are busy, they will have less time to dwell on the crisis and stay focused on more productive tasks.

Additionally, as many within the organization will want to come forward to help with resolving the problem situation, this can lead to the case of too many cooks or put simply, too many just getting in the way of resolving the crisis.

With clarity in message, management can distribute resources appropriately to directly address the problem issues, steer offers of help towards augmenting the resolution process peripherally and get the remaining idle hands and minds busy back at their respective work duties.

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