Traveling the World has Convinced Me that for Problem Solving, Diversity Matters
This is Blondi. She is proof that if you're a winery, having a winery dog is always a good idea. One of many good ideas I learned on the trip.
I knew that traveling around the world would be a great learning experience. But beyond the expected lessons I picked up from my journey on culture, history, food, politics and the like, I also was amazed at the ways other cultures solve certain problems better than we do in America. It’s reinforced my belief that diversity is a competitive advantage in business.
In virtually every country we visited, we’d see an example of how another culture created its own way of tackling tough problems or creating opportunities to make life better:
In Japan, virtually all of the escalators only run when someone is walking up to them, to save costs on electricity as well as reduced maintenance through reduced run times.
In many European cities, the subways and buses don’t have turnstiles but instead rely on a combination of an honor system as well as random passenger checks and fines for passengers without tickets. As a result, commuters don’t have to wait in turnstile lines to get into the subway or bus, and the subway doesn’t have to deal with turnstile maintenance or safety issues.
I was constantly amazed at these simple and smart solutions I’d see for some of the same challenges we face in the U.S. It’s another reminder to me of the value of diversity in creating solutions. In business, I work as a communications consultant to help my clients solve difficult problems, and I frequently work with a team to try and find solutions to long-held issues. Seeing how other cultures have found these simple and straightforward solutions reinforces my belief that ensuring the diversity of team members’ experiences and backgrounds is critical to a team’s success in solving the toughest problems.
As I continued to see more and more of these smart thinking examples, I started documenting them:
In the Prague subway system, the subway car poles split into two poles, so that more people can hold on during the busy rush hour.
This supermarket in Copenhagen helps you occupy your kid and prevent them from focusing on the cookie aisle, by giving them free fruit.
The chairs for outdoor dining in Cusco, Peru have a hook on the chair to connect to your bag, to prevent purse-snatchers.
In France, you use your key to open the gas tank, so you can’t leave the gas station with the pump in the gas tank, or without closing your gas tank. You also won’t lock your keys in the car, and you won’t leave the car running while you fill it up with gas. This exists in the U.S., but it seems much more prevalent in European cars.
I knew that traveling for a year would teach me about things I didn’t know. What I wasn’t expecting was that travel also taught me about things I thought I already knew. I’ve always valued encouraging a diversity of ideas, but traveling around the world and seeing what we haven’t figured out in the U.S. where others have found the solutions, has taught me that encouraging diversity in idea generation isn’t an advantage, it’s a necessity.