Jennifer Burge
CEO
WorldWise Consulting

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Once Upon a Time in Sonora…

By Jennifer Burge | Tue, 08/30/2022 - 09:00

No one was more surprised than I was to be sitting in the Sonora Ministry of Tourism office in Hermosillo last spring. I had attended a reception at the Mexican Consulate of Tucson and expressed interest in working with the government to promote Sonora tourism in Arizona. I had also assumed they would be more inclined to work with tour operators and tourism professionals in my state. It wasn’t the last surprise I would receive throughout this endeavor.

The idea was exciting: the inaugural tour for Arizonans to visit a few northern Sonora tourism hot spots over seven days. Who wouldn’t want to join a trip to Puerto Peñasco, Caborca, Hermosillo, Bahia de Kino, San Carlos, and Magdalena de Kino? I had seen nearly all these destinations pre-COVID and was eager to return, especially to the Sea of Cortez in July. The tour included highlighting luxury investment properties in these cities, most of them brand new, and cultural heritage sites in the region. Overall, it was a fast-paced and upscale tour that would appeal to many.

When formally asked by the government of Sonora to identify the guests, many thoughts ran through my mind: Who would get the most from the journey? Who would best get along for a week in close company on a driving tour? What common threads would create the best mix and experience for all? As it turns out, I was handed an assignment I have written and spoken about extensively since establishing WorldWise Consulting in 2019 but in a slightly different format: a live cross-border collaboration project with a multicultural, multifaceted, experienced team of professionals. Rather than teaching these topics in a classroom or through educational webinars, I now had the chance to prove that teams consisting of individuals with a broad mix of perspectives and backgrounds produce the best results in a completely new way.

When creating the lineup of the perfect team, among the essential criteria were well-traveled individuals, diverse cultures, nationalities, and professions. However, one trait stood out among all the others: a common goal. If we were to be ambassadors, the element that would be most important was the true spirit of a collaborator at heart. If 12 people were to spend a week together, they had to be people who know how to generate solutions for unforeseen circumstances, be supportive in nature, and always think about how to utilize our strengths to benefit the economic health of the megaregion of Arizona and Sonora.

It sounds like a big ask, doesn’t it? I wondered how it would turn out. Often. Thankfully, the next surprise I received was that one of the most well-respected tourism professionals in Mexico would be guiding us on the adventure. My responsibility was to create a team open to the experience and one another. Our expert guide and his team facilitated the journey.

As it turns out, the right ingredients were two politicians, a diplomat, a journalist, an engineer, an academic, a financier, a real-estate specialist, a mining CEO, and me. We were from six countries with experience in many international endeavors, both work and leisure. Gratefully, I had also noted a sense of humor as critical to participation. What I hadn’t considered, but appeared as a commonality, was musically inclined. The result? A powerful team that not only identified numerous opportunities for cross-border collaboration but was mutually supportive of one another. Day one, they arrived as strangers. Day two, they became friends. By the end of the trip, we were family planning our next reunion.

During the trip, we discussed how investment in mining and by mining companies creates essential infrastructure that can strengthen tourism. Team members put proposals for cross-promotion of cities in Arizona and Sonora on the table. Others identified opportunities for international exchange programs for university students. We even talked about the sharing of water management best practices. We did all of this accompanied by a great deal of singing and dancing, which made the trip incredibly enjoyable and productive.

Though it sounded like a tall order to fill, proof positive of our success as a team has resounded in the two weeks since we returned home, each of us with vastly expanded perspectives, reinforced networks, and several new friends. The ideas haven’t stopped coming for ways to help one another in business and human development. As an eternal optimist, I hope they never do. With the beautiful scenery, sounds, and sensations of Sonora around us, a binational dialogue began that will offer fruit far beyond our seven-day adventure. If we were all better able to communicate and share ideas across cultures and borders, if we were more open to the idea that in 2022, this is not optional but our shared responsibility, imagine what a world we could create.

Our future depends on our ability to work together to solve the complex issues we face globally. Those open to the experience and willing to contribute to the effort will lead the way. Steve Jobs told us that innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower. I don’t know about you, but I would prefer to lead than follow because as as Warren Bennis famously said, “Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.”

Photo by:   Jennifer Burge