Purple Heart Meritocracy: Medals That Bring Out an Organization’s Best

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Come to think of it, there’s no medal like the Purple Heart. Instituted by General George Washington himself centuries ago in 1782, the Purple Heart is given to soldiers who fought bravely against America’s enemies. As acts of bravery can mean certain death, the medal can be awarded posthumously.

Then, General Washington called it the Badge of Military Merit but over time its purple heart design overruled that. Since 1927, it has been referred to as the Purple Heart. Many who have lost their lives and limb have been given one.

While the Purple Heart is a military honor system, its genius can be applied in business. Remember that the main driving point of the medal is recognition. ; Wearing the medal definitely put any unknown soldier into the ranks of history. With a system such as that in place, your organization has the potential to grow exponentially.

The Most Coveted Medal of All

What distinguishes it amongst all the other military awards is you really can’t get a Purple Heart, if you haven’t sacrificed yourself. During the American Revolution, the war of secession from British rule, only three soldiers received the Purple Heart. The first medal was just a piece of cloth shaped like a purple heart and sewn into the soldier’s uniform.

Those three Revolutionary men were Daniel Bissell Jr., Elijah Churchill, and William Brown. They were afforded the treatment of a hero. The badge itself allowed them to go through sentinels and guards without challenge. Further, the names of those honored were inscribed on the military “Boof of Merit.”

Sadly, the practice of the Purple Heart initially died with the death of President George Washington. Worse, the “Book of Merit” was nowhere to be found.

Luckily, General Douglas McArthur, then the military chief of staff, took up the cause of the Purple Heart. The hero general wanted to revive the medal to commemorate General Washington’s 200th birthday. Indeed, the Purple Heart was reinstituted into the military on the 22nd of February 1932, the birthday of America’s First President.

As experts put it, you really can’t talk your way to a Purple Heart. You have to earn it. The Order of the Purple Heart can only be awarded to soldiers who have lost life or limb defending America. Moreover, it can also be awarded to members of the U.S. military who are maltreated as prisoners in a war. And that’s the story of America’s oldest military medal.

How Your Organization can Make the Most of It

The Purple Heart is meritocracy at its finest. In that sense, recognizing exemplary behavior in the workplace is practicing the values behind the military medal.

Workplace meritocracy is a great breeding ground for talent. It can be said further that meritocracy breeds success. Coined in 1958 by Michael Young, meritocracy was first mentioned in his book “The Rise of Meritocracy.”

By meritocracy, we mean a place where the best people with the best ideas are given credit. When that is in place, the greater engagement between associates and a better exchange of ideas should follow.

However, it’s paramount to understand that meritocracy is not another name for democracy. Not everyone should decide which is best. Only those who have earned it. Only those that have the experience and the capacity can weigh all the options.

One of the companies that have practiced meritocracy is Red Hat. The much-ballyhooed open-source software provider practices what they call Meritocracy 2.0. In their own words, they describe it as where “the best ideas win.”

In lieu of the Purple Heart, you can use custom medallions. Such medals are well-crafted and as such would make great branding for your enterprise. These medallions can be a fine way to honor the “doers in your organization”. Even better, not only will the wearer take pride in the beauty of the medallions, you could add certain perks with it.

For instance, you could create an elite group of deserving personnel. Such a group can be afforded discounted hotel stays or even destination vacations. Or these people could get elite pieces of training. The opportunities are endless.

What will happen is momentum will be created with such a system installed. On the other end, you could also use it Purple Heart meritocracy in your sales team.

Sales are famous for rallies. You can actually create certain criteria so your sales will drive up by using one. In the end, you can then award your top performers.

The Purple Heart is a tried-and-tested tool to encourage the best of the American soldiers. Your enterprise can also benefit from such a meritocracy. Giving everyone an equal chance to prove himself should get your organization going. And yes, we’re pretty sure General George Washington would be proud.

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