Develop a global mindset by working remotely from other countries
I’m writing this while sipping Turkish coffee at a local cafe across the famousHashem Restaurant in Amman (that serves insanely tasty falafel at prices that would put McD to shame). While we live in a globally connected world, we continue to be largely local in mindset. Today’s technology and work culture can help us expose ourselves to a more global mindset in a fairly short amount of time.
When we travel for work, we move from planes to familiar hotels and office buildings. When we travel on a holiday, we see the popular tourist sights. We are never able to live the lives of people whom we could potentially do business with. Our perspectives end up remaining rather skewed, shaped by where we live and the media we consume.
I periodically experiment by working remotely from countries/ regions unrelated to my work/ life so that I can expand my narrow view of the world. It’s really easy to find cheap tickets and it’s a little-known secret that most places in the world are cheaper to live in than your home country. Here’s how and why I do it.
1) 2-3 days are sufficient to build perspective. Just as you don’t need to eat everything on the menu to recommend a restaurant, you really don’t need weeks or months to understand a region. Working out of Jordan for just two days, I learnt nuances of the local tastes (mint leaves and tea tastes great), business (whyJOD is pegged to the dollar), the law (it’s illegal to speak against the king) and grasped the complexity of the Middle East (try answering this question: why is/ isn’t, was/ wasn’t Jordan an ally of the US?) much more deeply than I would ever have from a book or Wikipedia. As is relevant to my work, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the country adapted the Veteran Administration’s VistAelectronic medical record system for its citizens.
2) Wifi, Skype, Whatsapp let you travel globally and live virtually. I have a Skype number that links me to my local cell phone number. So when I call (a smartphone even gives you an option to dial via Skype) or when someone needs to reach me – it’s no different than talking to me when I work from home. Broadband connectivity in most places is decent enough to conduct a normal phone-like conversation and even have Gotomeeting conferences. I worked with people in India, US and South Africa the past few days and this model works like a charm.
3) Figuring out visa, language, currency, travel quickly expands you dramatically. I made my plans to work out of Jordan, 60 hours before I actually traveled. And gave myself 45min last Sunday to make all bookings and finalize logistics. I find that putting myself in sticky situations of dealing with immigration, local language, budgets, currency and travel logistics in a very short time dramatically expands my capability to deal with business complexity and make decisions quickly with less information. I felt yesterday that we must put our leadership team through a similar grind – there can’t be better development training than throwing them in the fire.
4) Managing work remotely is a very important skill. It’s more important for me to be able to get things done than to be able to do so myself. Working remotely forces me to become better at prioritization, delegation and decision making. It allows people who work with me to expand and make decisions on their own, allowing me to scale myself. Managing teams virtually and globally is an increasingly required skill for global business.
5) Creativity happens when the mind interconnects things. Our mind expands creatively by interconnecting things that on the surface seem unrelated. By observing diverse industries and regions at work, I always seem to get a flood of ideas for my own work. 2,200 years ago, Nabataeans who carved the city of Petra (about 4 hours from here) from sandstone and rock actively learnt from other cultures by making it their own. We need more Nabataean-type creativity today than ever before because computer systems are getting much better at left-brain work – we need people who can creatively deploy them.
Several years ago, I came across a Sanskrit expression called Kupamundaka(literally, frog-in-a-well) in a Satyajit Ray movie called Agantuk. The frog thinks that the well is all there is to life, until of course when it finally jumps out. In our rapidly evolving, globalized world, it’s more important than ever to know life outside our own wells.