The Value of Veterans as Innovators

The Value of Veterans as Innovators

“Would you be interested in delivering a TED Talk?” To have someone pose that question to you about a topic you are passionate about, and having the opportunity to tell the story of that passion, is certainly a humbling experience.

That was my experience last fall when I was asked to deliver a TED Talk to the TEDx Orlando event last October on a topic that my partners and I, as founding members of Pinnacle Five, are passionate about to our roots. That topic is “The Value of Veteran’s to America.”

One of the many values of our veterans is that they are trained, by design, to respond to anything. And out of that level of agility comes…a kind of inbred DNA-level innovation that almost businesses and communities crave and need today.

Pinnacle Five is a small company, yet we have each served 30+ years in our respective services. Our mission is to better educate the American public and – more specifically potential employers – on the tremendous talents, skills and abilities of today’s Veterans in a dynamic workforce.

Working together, as Pinnacle Five, we are:

  • Jack Tillley – the 12th Sergeant Major of the Army
  • Al McMichael – the 14th Sergeant major of the USMC
  • Jim Finch – the 13th Chief Master Sergeant of the USAF
  • Vince Patton – the 8th Master Chief Petty Officer of the USCG, and myself
  • Jim Herdt after most senior enlisted member of the U.S. Navy

While we appeal to our nation’s patriotism, we also build the business case for the better utilization of  American Veterans in our economy and communities as natural innovators in Business and Community.

Today’s Veterans possess tremendously marketable skills developed in what is arguably the best technical training system in the world, that we as taxpayers invest $6-$8 billion each year. More important, veterans possess personal/work attributes that employers desire…characteristics that define their criteria for successful employees.

These abilities, developed in military service include: sophisticated leadership skills, sense of team, self discipline, loyalty, appreciation for diversity, development of subordinates, just to name a few of the dozens of attributes that veterans have developed while serving in uniform. These men and women, through their training and experience,  are adaptive problem-solvers and yes, natural innovators.

Equally important to communities throughout our nation is that Veterans have a high propensity to volunteer. Every community could better themselves by tapping into Veterans in their community — to improve education, after-school programs, health programs, and programs to assist transformation of  the needy and homeless. Veterans are well suited to solve the intractable problems facing many of our communities.

At Pinnacle Five we love to tell the story of  America’s Veterans because these young Americans are a National Treasures like the generations that served before them. Given the TED Talk opportunity to tell their story to a larger audience was a priceless experience. The story is not only about what these amazing young Americans did for us while in uniform, it is also very much about what they are capable of contributing as problem-solvers, innovators, business and community developers — as valued Veterans.

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Jim Herdt is the CEO of Herdt Consulting and a member of Pinnacle Five.  He transitioned from active duty in April 2002 after serving 35 years in the U. S. Navy, culminating in serving the final four years as the most senior enlisted member of the U.S. Navy. As such, his responsibilities included leading program and policy development for an enlisted force of over 400,000 personnel and serving as a personal advisor to the Chief of Naval Operations, Secretary of the Navy, Secretary of Defense and the U.S. Congress on all U.S. Navy personnel policies.

James L. Herdt




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