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Diversity and Inclusion Drives Innovation in the Military

There are many critics of robust DEI efforts who argue that diversity, equity, and inclusion are feel-good, nice-to-have, non-essential goals that contribute minimally (if at all) to an organization’s success. Some would even argue that promotion of DEI efforts actually harm an organization by making employees feel uncomfortable or left out, for example.

But this view assumes—we feel, incorrectly—that businesses are interested enough in “feel-good,” fluffy goals to prioritize them over what such critics would feel are more important and tangible goals, like increasing sales, improving quality, or reducing costs. Instead, organizations that embrace DEI efforts do so because they genuinely believe such efforts are just as important, if not more important, than many other traditional business imperatives.

DEI in the Military

A great example of this can be seen in the attitude of military professionals toward DEI in the military. Obviously, the stakes are often much higher in military settings than in the corporate world, so we should expect military leaders to be particularly eager to ditch initiatives that have little actual value to the organization’s success or that may even be counterproductive to that success.

In a recent article for Task & Purpose, a publication targeting active-duty military members, veterans and their families, Lt. Col. Matthew J. Smith argues for the value of diversity in the military. Col. Smith has plenty of first-hand experience to back up his observations. He’s served in multiple leadership roles within the U.S. Army and is currently serving as battalion commander for the 1st Armored Division’s 3-501 Assault Helicopter Battalion.

Driving Inclusion With Purpose

Smith says that in the past year the Army has taken several proactive steps to drive greater inclusion. For example, soldiers’ service packets no longer include their photos in an effort to reduce racial bias in the promotion process. The Army has also updated its dress code policies “to be more inclusive regarding the preferences of its female Soldiers and to allow male Soldiers to wear earrings when not in uniform.” The Army is also requiring commands to report on how they are explicitly integrating inclusion in their operations.

The military’s rationale for promoting diversity and inclusion are well-stated in Smith’s article, which is worth a read. In short, the military sees cognitive diversity as a key strategic and tactical asset when facing geopolitical and battlefield challenges.

There is ample research to indicate the real, bottom-line, business value of DEI. It seems the Army is seeing this value. Organizations that view DEI initiatives as mission-critical efforts designed to develop, hone, and maintain key strategic capabilities that set them apart from the competition, are organizations most likely to stand out as they step up.

Be inclusive!

Recommended Reading


Are you tired of workplace diversity training that does not link to business? Are you tired of tactics that don’t drive business results? InclusionINC has inclusion and strategic consulting that link inclusion to employee engagement, productivity, innovation and retention, moving inclusion beyond tactics to a critical business strategy.


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