Growth Lab Podcast Series

What Would Happen if Business Travel Stopped?

August 10, 2020

Ricardo Hausmann, Frank Neffke, & Michele Coscia

With COVID-19 forcing widespread adoption of virtual communication for much of the world, some wonder if these remote business practices will become the norm. Before the pandemic, international business travel was a $1.5 trillion annual expense – an expense that’s increasing about 7% a year. Why are corporations willing to absorb this cost when technologies such as Skype, FaceTime, Zoom, WebEx, etc., have been widely available for the better part of a decade?

Growth Lab researchers have been studying business this question for years. You see, the Growth Lab’s approach to development puts particular emphasis on knowhow. We’re not talking about the information that exists in books, computer files, graphs, and algorithms. Knowhow only exists in brains and moves very slowly from brain to brain through years of on the job learning and interacting with experienced colleagues. So, to move knowhow, you have to move brains.

For more on the importance of moving knowhow, its relevance to business travel and some new findings in our research, let’s bring in our guests: Ricardo Hausmann, director of the Growth Lab and a professor at the Harvard Kennedy School; Frank Neffke, research director at the Growth Lab, and Michele Coscia, assistant professor at the IT University of Copenhagen.

What Would Happen if Business Travel Stopped?