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Transverse selection in the military

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transverse-selectionThe consequences of transverse selection are now being exposed in the US military, with one Air Force colonel complaining that the Service’s physical fitness standards select against too many airmen who excel at their actual job requirements.

Of course, physical readiness is certainly important to military readiness, but it is no longer the cornerstone of most military occupations, particularly in the Navy and Air Force.

Like those archaic pike and musket formations that still guide our social construction of what military discipline is all about, the over-emphasis of physical over mental readiness is a lingering trope that desperately needs reform.

In the Information Age, “fit for service” means much more than body fat percentage and push-ups per minute, and clinging to out-dated social ideals of the perfect warrior drives a bad selection process that costs us good Service members, which costs lives, and could one day cost us a war.

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Defining Success

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AlexandriaWaterfrontThere are people who want to be successful, and there are people who want to succeed.

Being successful means success in social terms, in terms of status, respect, credential, and self-esteem.

To succeed means success in practical terms, in terms of measurable progress, achievement, evidence, and self-improvement.

People who want to be successful say, “Let’s make this work!” Let’s build a business process out of enthusiasm and a can-do attitude! Let’s build a profitable third quarter out of persistence and cookie-cutter talking points about diversity, team effort, and leadership! Let’s build a ship out of cotton candy and unicorn dreams!

People who want to succeed are not afraid to say, “That isn’t going to work!” Collecting metrics on important but infrequent events will not provide a statistically valid sample size. Training people to improve innate talents they lack will never result in excellent performance. Obsessing about physical diversity while mismanaging intellectual diversity will achieve neither justice nor effectiveness.

People who want to succeed are not afraid to point out bad plans, no matter how frustrated it makes people who want to be successful, because the real world has real consequences and real causality. You can’t cheer yourself to success.

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We are drowning in wrong ideas of creativity, intelligence, and leadership

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In his blockbuster research work Good to Great, researcher Jim Collins revealed that facing the “brutal facts” is a key part of reversing decline and transforming a good organization into a great one.

Unfortunately, America no longer has a culture that easily absorbs brutal facts.

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