The Diversity of Thought

I recently met with a Senior Director of a Fortune 500 medical device company to explore how to better integrate transitioning military officers into his company. We discussed some common characteristics that military officers possess that the business world values.  We also examined how previous military officers (who now work at his company) integrated quickly into his company after transitioning.

I asked about the concept of Diversity and how his company considers its importance. He said Diversity plays a very important role in many aspects of his company, but said the leadership of his company also focuses on the idea of Diversity of Thought. Of course today, the word Diversity has a specific meaning in the context of business.  Companies view diversity as a competitive advantage – that is creating a company of employees with different ideas, backgrounds and worldviews that can engage a wide range of customers and business partners. Simply put, diversity in the work force empowers companies to thrive in a global marketplace.

This Senior Director emphatically said that Diversity goes far beyond gender, race, ethnicity or any other category. He said that those characteristics are important because more times than not, the specific differences that arise from a wide range of backgrounds naturally create channels for conversations that ultimately challenge ideas, stretch norms and facilitate growth.  He explained that the idea of Diversity, at least for him and the other leaders in his company continues past the conventional definition and pushes toward Diversity of Thought. Specifically, he described valuing team members who embrace different ways of solving problems, managing projects and leading people. He acknowledged that most people have a specific way of doing things, but those who have the ability to see a problem from every angle and take action based on new ideas and fresh information are the leaders of tomorrow in his company.

We agreed that military officers bring that level of Diversity to Corporate America – that is, Diversity of Thought.  JMOs have a distinct advantage in that you have, from the beginning of your military career, been exposed to diversity – cultural, gender, ethnic, age, religious.  You have led and collaborated with a wide array of people with many different backgrounds and experiences. As you consider your strengths and experiences, spend time giving thought to how Diversity of Thought has helped in your career. Consider ways to capitalize on explaining your background from the context of Diversity of Thought.

Pete Van Epps