If this equation was in MS Excel, I would receive a circular logic error message:
Past travel => Global identity => Less future travel
So you need to travel in order to travel less in the future? Basically yes.
Researchers found that former globe trotters can help with climate change under the following conditions.
- Past travel helps people to develop a global identity. Particularly if they have had positive contacts with local people.
- They have a global identity, which they define as identification with all of humanity. People define themselves as part of the community of people all over the world, and are concerned for the welfare of all people.
- The global identity combined with a sufficiency orientation, meaning an openness towards less consumption, leads to less carbon-heavy travel in the future (ie., the train)
I am one of these people. Although I was not a globe trotter, I enjoyed my work travels and especially the interactions with colleagues and clients in other countries. The travels expanded my view of the world and I felt connected with people around the globe. Yet, I carried the guilt of carbon travel. Now I am staying on the ground as virtual training and programs become the norm, travel budgets are drastically slashed and environmental concerns become code red.
The question I am pursuing in my work, then, is how can we develop a global identity without travel. A global identity is critical for leaders and employees who work internationally. This study showed global leadership identity made a difference in the creativity of an international R&D department. The means of developing a global mindset – traveling and emersion in other countries and cultures – is now out of the equation.
Are people with global mindsets doomed to extinction? If we care about the environment and stop high carbon travel, how can we develop a global mindset?
Fortunately we can expand upon the finding that quality of contact made the difference when people visited other countries. Quality of contact was linked with global identity, and we can experience quality contacts virtually, we simply need to be more intentional. Departments and teams need to organize the positive contact opportunities, which may include the following:
- Colleagues as the guides. Every month, a different colleague(s) presents their country and cultures to the rest of the team/department. They show pictures, tell stories and introduce their colleagues to their local ways of living and working.
- Cultural diversity workshops/programs. Teams attend workshops facilitated by a cultural consultant and together explore cultural diversity and what it means to develop a global mindset.
- Interdependence across locations. Organize the work tasks so that people from different cultures collaborate. Through collaboration, colleagues build trust and have an opportunity for positive contact.
- International collaboration. Offer employees work experience on international virtual teams. Through these experiences they have the opportunity to develop a global mindset.
- Informal coffees. Organize 3-4 random people from different cultures for informal 20-min coffees. These are fun ways to see what is happening in each country.
Are you grounded like me? How are you and your colleagues thinking globally while staying local? Bye-bye frequent flyer program!