Many companies hire a large portion of their staff where diversity is the prime differentiator. The theory is that diversity gives a company a large base of ideas with which to draw from for problem solving. This is thought of, normally, as racial or ethnic diversity, but can be applied to different backgrounds and even sub-cultures as well. This form of diversity is important, especially when the discussion of civil rights is a matter at hand. That said, in and of itself, ethnicity should not be considered a quality companies should hire for if the goal is to hire for diversity. What types of diversity are necessary for company success and evolution are those which make an individual useful while being very different from everyone else in the organization. Race and ethnicity, all else equal, rarely does this.
There are not ethnicities that provide true, useful diversities any culture, but there are cultures that add unique and predictable experiences that can help companies prosper. These cultures have their quirks, eccentricities, values, specialties, and perspectives which can guide teams in new directions and solve unique problems. For that reason, the real question isn’t if you are finding a HR perfect, color coordinated team page, but if you have a team with real depth based on a broad range of experiences. The better question might be for hiring managers, “Which cultures out there might add value, because they just care a lot about getting things done?” The point of diversity is not just to get different people working together, but also to get many different experience sets working together.
Think of it this way. If you build your diversity around different countries of origin, but everyone in the company has an almost identical skillsets, which were gained through almost identical means, how have you actually diversified your experience base? Say you are fortunate enough to have the ability to hire a team of Harvard graduates. Harvard is arguably the best university in the world in most many important fields. It is extremely exclusive and extremely competitive. For that reason, one would assume that success would come from a group such as this. Likely, it will, but the question is, will be it the greatest success? Consider adding in a few people from Stanford. Now you have two cultures of success with with two very different education systems. Different solutions are going to come from these two groups, one all of Harvard and one of a mixed class. Now consider how very different would the solutions formed from a group mixed in with a few graduates of the United States Naval Academy, or even one of self made entrepreneurial millionaires? How vastly different would the solutions to various problems be if such an amalgamation were to exist? The truth of the matter is that sometimes the Harvard group will sometimes create the best solution. Still, many other times, they will miss many things were would have been extremely obvious to everyone else, in spite of their individual and collective brilliance. For that reason, most of the time the greatest solution will come from the highly diversified group. They still have access to all their personal thought processes and their successful cultural quirk, but also now have access to another, the solutions that only become visible when multiple viewpoints are combined. This is a strategic asset and which can’t be replicated easily which means that the culture you build will differentiate you from other firms like you.
Few people can add as much constructive diversity as a military veteran. Few cultures have been engineered quite like those that military veterans have had memberships within. There are even fewer cultures that focus entirely on mission achievement, cooperation, and personal development. The fact is there is no culture in the world that shapes people in the way the military does. It changes people into something that civilians don’t really understand. What is more important is that it gives them options, mentalities, philosophies and a framework that sees opportunities and solves problems that will pass up most civilians. Even more important is that the thoughts going through their minds are centered around finding the problem and fixing it in the fastest and most efficient ways possible.
So to achieve useful diversity, it isn’t to focus on just bringing in different people, but people who have had experience successful cultures, cultures that somehow add value and are different than the culture already present an organization. That isn’t to say that the military is the only good and achieving culture in the world. It is just another one. What you want, to be clear, is an environment where there is a constant collision of successful problem solving systems in which only unique and inventive ideas can be generated. I know that this last section is more a concept of general business theory and not so centric on the military’s contribution to hiring a veteran. Well, I did graduated Cum Laude from business school and now run my own publishing firm, so I hope you take the advice regardless.
Having said this, when you start to try to diversify you team for success, you’re going to need a team which is capable of working with diversity. It isn’t built in. I will ask you a series of questions that might make it more clear why I would suggest a few military members be incorporated into such a team. What type of people have experience with extremely diverse teams? What type of group regularly asks its members to uproot and join new units and new teams? What is a group made of people from many different ethnic groups, income brackets, religious backgrounds and still manages to achieve world class results? What type of group regularly takes part in international activities with different cultures in which the fate of the mission revolves around team work? What type of group gives its members a huge amount of international travel and experience living abroad? It’s obvious the point I am making here. The military systematically builds individuals with experience that, later on as an unintended benefit, are built to join new groups of highly diverse individuals. More than that, the military is a culture which focuses on achievement, so by adding their processes to your own, you incorporate individuals who are already highly achieved in the arts of teamwork.
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