IMTP 2020: Mariah Marx Shares Highlights From Travels in Asia | Technological Leadership Institute
The following is a personal account of the international residency from M.S. in Management of Technology Class of 2020 student Mariah Marx, an operations coordinator at the University of Minnesota.
I squished the last item into my baggage for the International Management of Technology Project (IMTP) and sighed in relief that I somehow fit everything for a month of travel into my carry-ons. It’s hard to believe that it had been six months since a classmate and I committed to extending our trip an additional 11 days. We were first headed to Japan and would join the rest of our cohort later in Korea and Vietnam. The anticipation of visiting Asia for the first time left me with a whirlwind of questions about what to expect. Would it be similar to other places I had been to — Europe? South America? Both or neither? What was I unprepared for? How would the culture impact business strategies? What kind of technology would I see?
Three days after arriving in Japan, one thing stood out. There were endless, simple, everyday technology innovations that made life a little more enjoyable. Here are my five favorites from our time in East Asia:
- Red Light Countdowns
While we do have walk signal countdowns in some areas of Minnesota, we don’t get a notice of how long we have to wait before crossing. Japan provided a symbol countdown with disappearing dots, and the few traffic signals that are followed in Ho Chi Minh City provided a numerical countdown to the lights changing.
- Crosswalk Ground Lights
Yet another crosswalk innovation. With the majority of pedestrians focused on their cellphones, Korea added lights on the ground at intersections and provide a safety net for “smartphone zombies” who don’t want to look up from their devices.
- Reusable Train TicketingI was confused when my single-use ticket in Korea provided a “deposit” until I arrived at my destination. The refund machine was right outside the exit. The single-use card is collected and reissued to the next passenger. This simple change reduces paper use, waste and costs; plus, the positive reinforcement of getting cash back was a great bonus.
- Call Buttons in Restaurants
As a true Minnesotan, flagging down a server at a restaurant and interrupting their work is my nightmare. In Japan and Korea, many restaurants provide a button so you can call the server when needed. It certainly reduces frustration if your bill hasn’t arrived when you’re in a hurry.
- Hot and cold vending machines
And finally, the best revelation of the trip happened in Japan. We were mid-hike up a mountain to see snow monkeys when we passed a vending machine with coffee. While trying to decide, I was confused about what the red and blue colors were under each item. Naturally, we chose one of each. The shock of the can of the coffee coming out heated was outstanding. In a place like Minnesota, heated vending would be a great innovation to adopt.
And my personal favorite non-technology innovation? Ho Chi Minh City’s ability to chaotically (and perfectly) merge 8 million motorbikes.