ASATA Column: Moving brains, not bytes

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Pick up the phone, pop off an email or Skype up a storm. If there are so many ways to ‘do business’ over cyberspace, why on earth are you packing your bags and trekking across time zones for a business trip?

The truth is, despite massive advances in technology, business travel globally is growing 6.5%, faster than the rate of global economic growth and almost as fast as information and telecommunications services, according to recently released research by MasterCard and Harvard.

Apparently there are two main reasons why companies need to “move the brain, not just the bytes”. Firstly, the brain can absorb information, identify patterns and solve problems without us being aware of how it does it. Secondly, the brain is designed to work in parallel with other brains to solve problems.

You need to travel so that you can interpret other people’s goals and intentions from facial expressions, body language, intonation and other subtle indicators we gather unconsciously.

Similarly, the analogy of two heads are better than one applies critically to problem-solving. That is why we have design teams, advisory boards, inter-agency taskforces, and other forms of group interaction.

The research states that the amount of travel should be related to the amount of know-how that needs to be moved around, although a country like South Africa is among those that receives much more know-how than countries at similar levels of development like Peru or Sri Lanka.

The fact that companies still conduct business travel suggests that, for some key tasks, it is easier and more effective to move brains than it is to move the relevant information to the brains.

The fact that business travel is growing faster than the global economy suggests that countries and companies are more intent on gaining know-how and that this is best achieved through business travel.

So before you start slashing your travel budgets with the economic downturn, spare a thought for how much more value your company will receive through deploying your business brains instead of your business bytes.

And always rely on an ASATA travel agent to travel with peace of mind.

Otto de Vries

ASATA CEO