Civics is becoming a 21st-century business skill

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The Fourth of July is a day typically filled with food, festivities, and fireworks in the U.S., as our nation celebrates the passage of the Declaration of Independence in 1776. But this day commemorates something else, too.

Our celebration of Independence Day is an opportunity to reflect on our country—the progress we have made and the work we must still do to strengthen our democracy and communities as we look toward the future.

Like a successful business, democracy only works when all of its components function well. The very skills that formed this great experiment are the same skills that spark the inspiration and innovation necessary for breakthrough ideas and continued economic growth. In other words, civics is a 21st-century business skill.

Critical thinking, problem-solving, negotiation, curiosity, adaptability, shared risk-taking, and other so-called “soft skills” are increasingly called “durable skills” because there’s nothing soft about them. In fact, a recent LinkedIn survey found that nine out of 10 global executives say they are more important than ever in the workplace.

Collaboration and shared risk-taking

in government, facilitating and making decisions requires people to work together. Whether it’s running a polling station on Election Day or serving on a municipal committee, the path to getting things done includes working with others who may hold opinions and ideas that are quite different from your own.

While our neighborhoods, houses of worship, schools, and other places where we gather with others may be homogenous, in the workplace, we are likely to encounter people who are different from us.

When team members with varied opinions and perspectives can work respectfully and effectively together, organizations win. Companies and teams adept in durable skills can be expected to deliver greater employee morale, improved product service or quality, and increased innovation, to name a few.

Defusing conflict and solving problems

Failure to understand how our government works is preventing people from finding common ground on basic issues. This lack of knowledge foments division, frustration, and ultimately, incivility and an inability to communicate effectively with others, especially those who see the world differently.

Most Americans believe the nation’s tone is uncivil (58%). However, when people have a shared understanding of organizations and processes, they can listen to others’ arguments and make strong rationales of their own. In doing so, they can better use reason to compromise and manage conflict.

Honing negotiation skills

Think about the way legislation is often crafted: Someone has an idea for change. Others may disagree. In an ideal world, they discuss their differences, find common ground, and draft legislation made stronger by a range of viewpoints.

Increasingly, managers are concerned about their team members’ unwillingness to compromise and inability to sit together and come to an agreement. By many accounts, our founding fathers held wildly differing opinions and argued fiercely. However, they were able to reach compromises that became our nation’s foundation.

Training critical thinking

While sometimes met with chagrin, jury duty is one of the most important ways citizens participate in our system of governance.

Being a good juror requires weighing evidence, questioning our own preconceptions, and asking good questions. These are the same critical thinking skills necessary in making key organizational decisions.

Building leaders

Understanding and participating in how our government is run teaches us how to operate in complex systems, navigate change, and use good judgment and reason to reach a goal. In short, civic engagement builds leaders who can apply those skills in myriad ways, including in the workplace.

Americans are eager for employers to help build bridges, create healthier discourse, and strengthen cooperation in the communities they serve. Eighty-two percent of Americans believe that businesses can play a role in bringing our country together, and nearly 75% of voters agree that businesses have a responsibility to protect our economic system and national environment.

Businesses can take small yet meaningful steps to boost civic engagement. For example, employers may offer their employees time off to serve as nonpartisan poll workers during local, state, and national elections, addressing a critical shortage across America. Or they can support employees selected for jury service by providing resources to help them prepare for their duties. They can also provide educational experiences that reintroduce employees to civics basics, empowering them to learn more about how our government works and how they can meaningfully participate. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation runs one of several such initiatives that help employers enhance civic skills within their teams.

As we prepare to celebrate Independence Day, now is the time for the business community to commit to elevating civics education and skills in the workplace.

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The opinions expressed in commentary pieces are solely the views of their authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and beliefs of Fortune.

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