The Joint Civilian Orientation Conference is a Department of Defense program designed to give a few dozen non-military members a deeper understanding of the U.S. Armed Forces. In this week's Rule Breaker Investing podcast, David Gardner is ready to reflect on the lessons of his trip. And among the biggest ideas he brought back was how big a difference-maker it is that we have an all-volunteer military.

A transcript follows the video.

This video was recorded on Aug. 31, 2016.

David Gardner:

I mentioned earlier that I was going to tell you the secret behind why the U.S. military thinks it will keep on winning, and you've waited until the 20th minute or so of this podcast so you're entitled, now, to know the answer to this secret. This is through my own observation, but it was reinforced at a few points by people who are training the military.

And here, as I see it, is the U.S. Department of Defense's great advantage. Not to speak for it, but I think that they would recognize this. And that is that today in the United States of America, we are an all-volunteer force. Everybody who's serving in any of the five U.S. Armed Forces has chosen to do so, and we are regularly confronting threats in which that is completely not the case.

Of course, we've heard of some horrible cases where people have, in the worst cases, bombs strapped to their bodies, and they're not even part of whatever is about to blow them up. But I'm thinking more in terms of the authoritarian regimes in which people are not choosing to be there. And if you think about not just the decision to choose, or not, to be recruited by your military, but you actually think about how people are commanded, there's a really fundamentally different vibe happening in the U.S., as I saw it, than I think many of the enemies in the world at large.

That is for the most part, the U.S. military is teaching autonomy to its leaders. They want you to be, whether you're in charge of a large or small force, pretty able to act on your own, without getting orders from somebody higher up. Of course, there are a ton of orders, and the U.S. military is very process-driven. But fundamentally, they're teaching leaders, especially just of very small units, to operate as autonomously as possible. I'm going to throw in another word there which I heard last week, and that is creatively as possible. Encouraging creativity for on-the-ground forces.

If that's well done and well achieved (I think it generally has been in the U.S. military), that is very powerful relative to any enemies or threats in which that is completely not the case, and I'm happy to say that for some of our biggest threats identified earlier in this podcast, that is not the case. They do not have that kind of autonomy or creativity being taught, or grown, or expected of people serving in the military.

I see that as a secret, and it's one of those that we're probably even happy to allow to get out because, like a lot of great secrets, you can hear it, even if you're a competitor, but it's very hard, in many cases, to do it unless you fundamentally restructure your culture or your operations, and I don't think that's happening anytime soon.

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