How Military Leaders Use Innovation In MBA Education & Employment

Recently, in America, there has been much attention given to the topic of innovation. It is being studied, analyzed and tracked as never before.

So it’s only fitting that Reuters recently came out with their inaugural ranking of the world’s most innovative universities. Congratulations to both MIT and the University of Washington who were schools that rated in the Top 10 globally.

According to Reuters, “…the institutions that were selected have made the most significant impact in the global economy on discoveries in the fields of science and technology.” The index used to evaluate universities was based upon academic research papers and patent filings, which Reuters believes is an indication of a university’s commitment to leveraging its IP assets and applying its discoveries. Many of the higher-ranking schools were larger research universities.

Traditionally, the focus on innovation in business has skewed toward big companies who have abundant resources and substantial R&D. However, the new emphasis is on how small entrepreneurs are working alongside big organizations and using innovation to drive our economy forward. Which is more exciting because it applies to all of us. It makes innovation more accessible and something that everyone can participate in and benefit from.

Leadership(ChartOnNetIncome)As before (i.e., in the areas of leadership, internet, GPS, mobile telephony, etc.), the military is playing an important role in American innovation. This time the military’s connection to innovation is in area of education. In an important book written on business innovation, called The Reciprocity Advantage, the War College in Carlisle, PA receives high marks from the private sector for experimenting to learn by training troops in immersive technologies such as simulations.

Here is an excerpt from the book which touches on the strength of education its military leaders receive, “…the Army War College (AWC) started referring to itself informally as VUCA (for Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous). Since 9/11, Bob (i.e., Bob Johansen, co-author of the book) has returned to the AWC many times to lead exchanges between business, nonprofit, and military leaders…he has learned that Army War College pedagogy makes heavy use of gaming and immersive learning, which means that the military is better prepared for the digital natives than other education institutions or corporations. The military is at the leading edge of gameful engagement, and corporations can learn from them.”

I’m sure we can all agree that innovation is important. There are increasing complexities to solving real world problems in our institutions today, which will require innovation in our culture, communities and leaders. Because innovation is important and you are a leader, here is my advice on innovation which will help you today.

Related to future applications, as The Reciprocity Advantage makes clear, know that the military is #1 in how they educate their leaders using simulations. If you have attended the War College or its equivalent in another branch of the military, I would definitely highlight it in the applications you use for all college admissions (including MBA schools) and subsequent resumes/CVs for employment. Then be prepared to discuss how VUCA (for Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous) drives innovative solutions and contributes to your unique skills as a progressive leader.

Regarding your future education, I would also encourage you to consider innovation (i.e., assuming it is important to you). And, to the degree possible, make sure to evaluate any colleges or universities you are interested in according to the simulations they use to teach their students how to experiment to learn.

Organizations benefit the most from innovation. So when it comes to employment, I would also factor innovation in whenever you evaluate a company. Such as, “Does ABC company truly value innovation and solve complex problems by using innovative solutions?” If so, have organizations of interest give you current examples? Also, have them explain how they deliver, support and encourage innovation within their companies? If you are interested in working for companies that have executive education and leadership development programs, you must evaluate these initiatives as you would any other education programs.

If companies believe in innovation to solve complex problems, they should be able to demonstrate how they value and foster innovation in the workplace. And, because innovation comes from its people, you should be able to determine if a company places a corresponding premium on finding, retaining and developing innovative leaders.

As innovation continues to dominate our economy and culture, look for innovation to become a key factor in deciding on your future education and employment needs.

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