To succeed in business you need: teamwork, ingenuity, pride and selflessness.

Businesses can learn a lot from the US Military.

While some may believe that open thought and ingenuity doesn’t exist in the military and that enlisted personnel just jump to the commands of their officers, that outdated notion can’t be further from the truth. When in the middle of nowhere, with a failed piece of equipment, you need incredible ingenuity to keep the mission, and your team, alive.

One such example is from being in the US Navy, on a Guided Missile Destroyer, in the South China Sea. Our navigation radar went dead and after troubleshooting I found that a resistor had failed. (A resistor is an electronics component that restricts the flow of electrical current in a circuit.) Without this part, the radar wouldn’t operate and we were effectively sailing blind. A warship without a working navigation radar, is not a good thing.

Well, this particular resistor was about an inch and a half in diameter and over a foot long. A very high power but low resistance device. Not the kind of part you keep in ships stores, and being in the middle of the South China Sea, you can’t even run to a depot station to see if they have one in stock.

Well, did we just moan about not having the part? Did we just drop anchor and wait for someone to come by and give us a tow? NO and NO.

What we did was to creatively think about the problem and came up with a solution. We took a bunch of standard incandescent light bulbs, wired them together, and improvised something that would look to the electrical circuit in the radar as if it was a replacement resistor. It worked and allowed us to not only successfully complete our mission but to also stay on schedule for the rest of the deployment.

Beyond the formal and highly technical skills learned in military schools, you are also instilled with the drive and desire to “get the job done” and a “can-do” attitude. You do whatever it takes, you help out whomever and wherever you can, as success of the mission it paramount.

Teamwork, ingenuity, pride, selflessness, these are the traits that are characteristic of our military men and women. These are also traits that businesses need to succeed.

Do the people in your company have these traits? Do they operate as a team? Do they find creative ways to solve problems? Are they proud of the work they do? Do they put the needs of the team ahead of their own? Proper leadership can make all the difference in the world.

What situations have you seen in your career where these attributes played a role in your success? Or, did the lack of these attributes contribute to failure?


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3 Responses to To succeed in business you need: teamwork, ingenuity, pride and selflessness.

  1. RoryB says:

    Actually a spare still wasn’t carried after that. The Mean Time Between Failure (MTBF) of this particular part was in the hundreds of years. I doubt if the replacement failed during the life of the system. I never heard of another one ever failing either. Since space for spare parts is so severely limited on-board the ship, you only stock what actually has a high probability of failing.
    At the depot level, on shore, they have spare parts for everything. It just may take a fair amount of time to get the spare part to you. We were sailing in the region of sea between Vietnam and the Philippines and I think they flew the spare part to Yokosuka, Japan from Hawaii.


    • Warren Dent says:

      Just shows how misleading MTBF can be since your ship wasn’t 25 years old I bet. Of course your part failing at less than 25 suggests the next part might have lasted a thousand years to give an average of hundreds 🙂

  2. Warren Dent says:

    Great example of creative thinking. But this also sounds like a superb example of ‘necessity is the mother of invention’ . I wonder if spares were carried on future trips?


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