Creativity and Cross-Cultural Ties — is there really a connection?

In a recent BNET blog (5 Ways to Foster Innovation) Kimberly Weisul says that:

“Roy Chua, of Harvard, believes that creativity is not necessarily about coming up with something totally new. Instead, he says, “most often it is about connecting ideas to create something different. If you have a multicultural social network, you are more likely to receive ideas that are different.” Chua surveyed a group of media professionals about their social networks, and then asked each to brainstorm about the future of the newspaper industry. A group of outside judges ranked the ideas based on how creative they were, and it turned out those professionals with ore multicultural social networks came up with more creative ideas. Chua conducted a similar experiment with college students, surveying their social networks and asking them to come up with a new advertising campaign for a fruit drink. Those with more contact with different cultures came up with more creative ideas.”

Now we’ve heard before that moving to another country and becoming an expat encourages creativity just for the simple reason of being in a different environment and being exposed to new perspectives.  By the same token, cross-cultural interactions and connections do the same job of exposing us to different perspectives and ideas.  But what’s our role here and who do we have to be to actually become more creative?

There are a couple of traits I think are very useful in taking advantage of your cross-cultural ties when it comes to becoming more creative:

  • Open-mindedness – if we are closed to new perspectives and ideas, no amount of them around us will help;
  • Courage – new things can be scary and taking them on can be even scarier;
  • Curiosity – digging deeper is part of adopting something new.

What do you think?  What other traits can be helpful here?

Want to take advantage of this opportunity to become more creative and productive when working across cultures? We have a couple of openings for executives who want to improve their intercultural competency.  Our individual cross-cultural coaching program is based on Culture Mastery 4 C’s Process™ — the program that helps people build their cultural competency.  For more details please visit here.

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5 responses to “Creativity and Cross-Cultural Ties — is there really a connection?

  1. I love this comment: ‘connecting ideas to create something different’ and I love how you apply it to the expat life!

  2. Nice Post! Every day i’m getting more sure about Creativity is the key for social change… I believe cross cultural experiences really lead you to a wider world view. Although, it’s important to be aware, the only way you can survive any of those experiences is acting creatively.

    Now i’m very inspired on Hans Joas’ work; his third model of action –> creative action. I highly recommend you to have a look at it!

  3. Thank you for making the connection between innovation, ideas, and multicultural encounters. Two themes mentioned here concur with recent academic research conducted on foreign executives in local organisations (FELOs). First, four different categories of FELOs were found and category no.3 were named ‘Entrepreneurial Innovators’ for obvious reasons. That finding illustrates the point made in the above article.

    Second, among the personality traits of FELOs (the so-called “BIG5 personality traits” are an established favourite among management researchers), the “openness to experience”-trait was quite apparent. This illustrates the second point made by your article: openmindedness, curiosity and courage to try new things are important. That “openness to experience”-trait should be present among foreign executives as well as among their colleagues in the local organisations that hire them. Unfortunately however, that is not always the case.

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