Yet Another Reason to Live Abroad

June 24, 2009

I noticed a short piece about this in The Economist last week, and I was reminded about it again when I got my weekly feed from INSEAD. According to a study done by William Maddux, an OB professor at INSEAD, and Adam Galinsky, a management professor at Northwestern/Kellogg, people who live abroad are more creative. And the more time they spend away from home, the more creative they become.

The study didn’t find a correlation between traveling abroad and creativity — people actually had to live in a foreign place for an extended period of time, during which they are immersed in local culture and language (not eating burgers with a bunch of expats) in order to reap the benefits (duh). According to the researchers, the link may be partially attributed to the documented strong association between foreign language aptitude and creativity.

The takeaway? If they can, and if it benefits their business, companies should be thinking about how to offer their employees immersive experiences abroad. Not only do these experiences build character and open people’s eyes to other ways of living and doing business, they might enhance an employee’s creativity. It sure sounds like a win-win to me.

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