I loved this article in this week's Business Week: "The World is IBM's Classroom." The concept is simple: combine Peace Corps-like service with management training. This works on so many levels: IBM gets its top prospects invaluable training in cross-cultural communication, non-traditional problem-solving, and team-building. And IBM gives to the world its best assets, which are its brains.
This reminds me of a brilliant non-profit concept founded by my good friend over at Suburban Family Guy: Synergy Ministries. Noting the power of short-term missions trips, yet wanting to contribute his secular gifts as well as his spiritual gifts, my friend organized groups to work with missions agencies all around the world, where in addition to Bible studies and mercy ministries they could set up databases and design websites.
Again, as with IBM's initiative, win-win synergy. Participants got invaluable perspective on the world plus an opportunity to use their hard skills for good purposes. And participants left behind lasting results that otherwise might not have materialized.
Ironically, in a rapidly globalizing world, both our need to meet need as well as our hope of remaining competitive lie in the extent to which we can walk a mile in the shoes of someone else thousands of miles away. Kudos to my friend and to IBM for tapping into this powerful synergy.