Multicultural experience tends to facilitate creative thinking and problem solving.
William W. Maddux, assistant professor of organizational behavior at INSEAD and Adam D. Galinsky, associate professor of management and organization at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, conducted four studies of students placed in situations requiring creative insights. The first two studies revealed that graduate students were more likely to find innovative solutions to tricky problems and negotiations if they had lived abroad for some time.“It’s not enough to go backpacking around Europe for a week or two,” explains Galinsky. “You really need to immerse yourself in the culture to get this serendipitous boost in creativity.” In fact, it took about six to 12 months of overseas living to get any benefit. Thereafter, a bigger boost came from students who had lived abroad at least two or three years. The studies also confirmed that overseas living experience made a difference, even when controlling for important personality traits, such as “openness to new experiences.”These findings imply that companies can get the most out of their teams by rotating employees to new regions or by emphasizing foreign-living experiences in the hiring process.