Last week I had the honour of speaking at an incredible conference called www.purpose.do which explored the next wave of corporate culture – one that is driven by its values.
My topic was “Culture by design” where I presented Reho’s history, when and how we found our “why” and the culture that has both organically developed and been designed around that.
During the talk, in front of over 100 worldly, highly educated and purpose driven delegates, I referenced the drug culture in Colombia, which I experienced whilst living in Bogota in the 80’s. My comment drew a ripple of laughter which I didn’t expect and thought nothing of. It was only during question time a Colombian lady stood up and berated me for my “joke” about drugs. I apologised publicly pleading that it was unintentional and I was as surprised as she was by the audience reaction. I even made the effort to pull her aside for a one on one immediately following the session.
However, this is what I should have done.
I should have stood up, apologised for the remark and reminded the audience that I was describing a Colombia of over 30 years ago, an entirely different Colombia than the Colombia of today. I should have seized the opportunity to remind them that there is a strong likelihood that their perception of Colombia comes from a TV show, although the Netflix hit Narcos is a good illustration of what it was like, that was a lifetime ago. As a representative of the travel industry I should have pointed out why it sits at the top of the list of the 90 countries I have visited and why it is the destination we are all talking about.
What other country has a Caribbean coast, Amazon rainforest, snow-capped mountains, rolling green hills dotted with coffee plantations, vibrant world class metropolises, 16th century walled cities and a lost citadel in the jungle?
Where else are the people as beautiful, energetic, creative, embracing, open and artistic? We’ve all heard of Shakira the singer, Gabriel Garcia Marquez the writer, Fernando Botero the artist and for the sports lovers out there, how can you forget the impact that James Rodrigues had on the World Cup or Nairo Quintana on the Tour de France.
Finally, what is the city of Medellin famous for? You are all wrong. It is the home of the world’s best display of Christmas lights.
So please do me a favour, next time a client gives you that knowing look when you propose that they visit Colombia, take a moment to educate them, don’t wait until it is too late like I did.