Business travel as a short-term “assignment”

We often talk about strategies for navigating cultural difference and cultivating personal development during expat assignments, but what about short business trips? It is not unusual for professionals of all stripes – including members of my own family – to find themselves on planes to places as divergent as Portland, Oregon, and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Even though they do not receive even basic cultural training, they are usually expected to “hit the ground running” (that is, without any metaphorical trips or falls). Upon their return, there is little effort on the part of their organizations to harvest the experience and newly acquired knowledge beyond a basic debrief. As far as the company is concerned, the task at hand has been accomplished; as far as the employee is concerned, the exhausting ordeal is behind her, and she can now turn to her overflowing inbox.

This transactional mindset is understandable, but my colleague Andy Molinsky and I think it’s shortsighted and does organizations a disservice both in terms of talent development and in growing employees’ global capacities and competence. To encourage new thinking, we decided to write a piece for Harvard Business Review on short business trips, which we argue are full of hidden benefits – if only companies can become aware of them.

Our article came out this morning, and I’m happy to share it here. I’m also curious to see what you think. What benefits have you experienced through business travel? What benefits would you like to see – and would you be better able to harness with different systems in place or different kinds of support from your company? Finally, if you’d like to talk about how to make the most of your next business trip, please let me know!

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