The U.S. Army loves to learn. At some point, we all look to learn about how to become better at the profession of arms. I remember wandering around some hills in South Korea as a young second lieutenant during a particularly snowy January with a well-worn copy of T.R. Fehrenbach’s This Kind of War, trying to find old Korean War positions to further my knowledge of being an infantry officer. Like so many before me, I was a student of the military profession. I knew in order to master my new profession, I needed to learn.As an institution, the Army places learning—in this case, the process of understanding and incorporating new pieces of information in order to improve military operational performance—as a central tenet for both individuals and organizations. The Army excels at this in both formal and informal educational structures. Indeed, it is difficult to be unable to find an Army school that seeks to improve warfighting. As an institution, however, the Army rarely tries to understand and discover what individuals and organizations should seek to learn from it.In the Army’s quest to learn more from other organizations and military operations, it often fails to see what makes itself distinctive both in terms of the uniqueness of individual soldier professional attributes and institutional performance. A keen understanding of the Army’s strengths is central to ensuring that we preserve and improve what it does best. These qualities should be valued among organizations in business, education, government and the nonprofit arena, to name a few.Army Training Lasts an Entire CareerTraining for individuals new to an organization, in both business and the military, is not new or unique. If asked, any new employee or new soldier will regale you with their training schedule, new regulations and the like. The uniqueness of the Army really begins to appear about four years into a soldier’s career when he or she moves from soldier to noncommissioned officer. As an NCO, he or she is now expected to both manage and lead a small group, and to have both formal schooling and informal professional development.In most businesses, employees move from individual contributors to management roles without any dedicated formal leadership or management training. Literally, one day I lead myself; the next, I lead a team. Gallup, according to an article in the March 2014 Harvard Business Review titled “Why Good Managers Are So Rare,” found that seven of 10 new managers are unprepared for their new roles. Gallup and the Army know that leaders need to be developed and grown; they do not just happen.Ask a CEO when his or her last training session occurred, and you could get an answer of years—even decades—ago. Ask a general officer the same question, and his or her last training was most likely months ago. Army training is not just the foundation for excellence; it is the foundation for continued excellence. This makes the Army special.Seeking Constant ImprovementThe Army consistently trains individuals, leaders and units to accomplish missions that are ever more difficult. The focus is on constant development and improvement of core functions that support the accomplishment of the Army’s missions. For example, marksmanship—the ability to shoot accurately—is a core Army function that has been transformed with new technology, training and combat-tested principles over the last decade.Finally, the core measures of performance do not change. If the new marksmanship procedures do not allow me to hit the target faster and with greater accuracy, then we go back to the drawing board. The constant improvement of core functions or performance is a standard, not an exception. This makes the Army special.Most business organizations understand their competition to varying degrees. For example, think of cellphone manufacturers Apple and Samsung: They understand their competitors’ products to an incredible degree of detail in terms of memory, camera, display size and the like. All companies, no matter their degree of competitive awareness, can learn to follow and emulate the Army’s intelligence and operational pairing.In the Army, intelligence combined with the nation’s strategic goals and the commander’s intent drive operations and support functions. The Army is an organization in which the fulfillment of goals is paired with a deep understanding of the enemy, and then a dynamic plan is created and adapted to ensure goals are met. Organizations usually determine their strategy based on the past—what they have already developed—and then glance at what the competition is doing. This pairing of intelligence with operations is unique to the Army. This makes the Army special.Commander’s IntentThe theory of commander’s intent is to provide additional command guidance in order to accomplish the mission in dynamic, changing environments. This concept allows for and encourages initiative when a plan changes or needs to be adapted, and it is a cornerstone of Army doctrine. Indeed, the concept of defining success and what it looks like—to allow for individual initiative so a plan can be adapted and then returned to once conditions change—is extraordinarily powerful. Central to commander’s intent is Col. John R. Boyd’s observation-orientation-decision-action loop. It enables situational understanding so a soldier can take effective action utilizing commander’s intent.Among the challenges that U.S. automobile manufacturers experienced over the past several decades, senior leaders had difficulty getting their employees to quickly understand and adapt to competitive and engineering challenges. They struggled with both developing initiative and creating rapid situational awareness. The Army’s ability to define success in order to encourage and allow for initiative when the plan must be adapted to create success is powerful. This makes the Army special.A Transformational OrganizationThe Army’s ability to question and transform its behavior through the after-action report process, professional publications and leader development really does not have a peer in business, government or any other organization. In the Army, once an operation of any size is completed both in training and in combat, the entire organization pauses in a formal process to ask, “How did we do, and can we do better?” In addition, publications, blog sites and formal education courses consistently ask students, retirees and serving members of the Army how to understand where we have been, where we need to go and how we need to change.The pro-counterinsurgency and anti-counterinsurgency discussion inside the Army while it was involved in Iraq and Afghanistan was extraordinary, because it showed an institution how to fight while it was fighting. During the 1990s, IBM struggled to effectively adapt its software strategy to the new power that Microsoft was unleashing through its Windows operating system. Microsoft’s innovative culture was far more agile than IBM’s in creating software that fully unleashed the power of the individual personal computer. There was a startling lack of internal discussion about what needed to be done. For the Army, the internal and external challenges of what and how we need to be as a force are extraordinary. This makes the Army special.Putting It All TogetherThe Army is unique because of its training, improving core functions, combining intelligence that drives operations, employing commanders’ intent to drive initiative, and understanding that nothing is static and transformation is a must, not an if. When we look at the Army’s embrace of these core concepts over time, we see an Army that is unique as an institution not just across the U.S. but also around the world. In addition, for the Army to truly embrace the concepts that make it great, we need to understand that internal challenge, discussions and dissent are the norms of an organization remaining great.Businesses train individuals at a low level but do not train and test senior leaders or organizations. Businesses have routine operations that are static but do not use a dynamic external assessment process paired with the CEO’s goals and close observation of the competition to change their behavior. Finally, most businesses do not value internal questioning of mistakes or how the organization needs to adapt. The U.S. Army values it at all levels.Challenging the status quo is what allowed Apple, Google, General Electric and others to become and remain great. The Army has done this for decades. Organizations can—and should—learn from the Army about training, operations, leader development and transformation efforts if they wish to become great. In the Army, we need to remember, cherish, protect and improve the attributes that make us great.