I just completed a trip around the world in 27 days. After traveling 27,500 miles (approximately 44,000 km.), and through 10 airplane trips, I learned a few things that I’d like to share with you.
During my trip, I held meetings with members of my Inner Circle mentorship program in Madrid, Taipei, Dubai, Beijing, and Seattle.
[At the last minute, I’ve also decided to add a breakfast meeting in Austin, Texas on Sept. 13th. Inner Circle members will be receiving a separate email invitation shortly.]
Here are a few things I observed in my travels:
1) Despite meeting members from an estimated 15+ countries, I am reminded that like-minded people have more in common than their nationality, religion, genders, and professions would otherwise suggest.
The members in Dubai think just like the members in Beijing; so do the ones in Taipei vs. Seattle vs. Madrid.
Every member I met was looking to improve their lives or careers AND were willing to invest some effort in making that a reality.
For example, roughly half of the members at each event had taken a plane to make it to the breakfast or dinner meeting.
As I mentioned to members in person, people like this are either supremely determined, a little crazy, or both.
Upon further reflection, I realized my entire professional network of relationships was established outside of my (and my colleagues') home city.
In every case, we both traveled to some event and made a connection with each other.
2) While members came out to meet me, I pointed out the incredible opportunity these meetings were for meeting everyone else in attendance.
In Madrid, everyone went out after my dinner to continue to get to know each other.
In Seattle, I saw groups of people exchanging business cards at the end of our dinner.
In Beijing, members formed at WeChat group to stay in touch.
In Dubai & Taipei, everyone ended up getting everyone else's email addresses.
While the method of staying in touch varied by city, the underlying dynamic was the same: connect with interesting people, stay in touch, and perhaps build a mutually beneficial alliance relationship over time.
3) I was surprised by how much more advanced consumer technology adoption is in Beijing than in Silicon Valley.
This was especially in the areas of a) digital payments, b) eGovernment, and c) digital eco-systems.
a) Digital Payments
I was surprised how widely adopted digital payment systems are in Beijing.
Paying for a can of Coke at a convenience store via a smartphone app is quite commonplace.
I had no idea that AliPay (the digital payment system owned by Alibaba) is significantly larger than the US-based PayPal.
When I leave home, I bring my keys, my phone, and my credit cards.
In Beijing, I noticed that the phone seems to be steadily displacing the need to carry credit cards.
Your phone IS your payment method.
This reminds me of when I first read about text messaging.
At the time, I was at McKinsey. I read about this SMS texting technology being widely used in Europe, with absolutely zero usage in the United States.
A decade later, text messaging is universally adopted all over the United States and elsewhere.
While the technology for using a smart phone as a payment method is developed (it’s built into the Apple’s iOS and Android), it will take some time before it’s more widely used.
I noticed hundreds of thousands of government-owned bicycles all over Beijing.
As one of my taxi drivers explained to me, these bicycles are free for all residents to use. Each bicycle has a GPS transponder, and you rent the bike with a smart phone app.
You pick up any bike anywhere in the city and ride it to nearly anywhere else. When you get off the bike, you simply let your smart phone know you’re done.
Apparently, nobody steals the bikes. Besides having a tracking device implanted, there are so many bikes everywhere it is far more convenient to use the free bikes than to steal the bike and have to store it.
c) Digital Ecosystems
Finally, in the world of digital apps, I was intrigued by how many of the dominant apps players had created an entire digital ecosystem.
Imagine if Facebook acquired PayPal, Yelp, Groupon, Uber, and combined them all into a single app ecosystem.
This level of cross category integration is far more common in China than in Silicon Valley.
One of the reasons I love to travel is I always learn something new... and I can never predict in advance what it is that I will learn.
The other reason I like traveling is to meet new people.
Whenever you get a chance to encounter new ideas and to meet new people, it’s hard to go wrong.
Arguably, these are the only two ways to grow as a person and a professional.
If you don’t already have active plans to encounter new ideas or to meet new people, you might consider ways to do more of both going forward.