Posted on 22 September 2009.
Posted on 12 September 2009.
In an interview about a new study that finds that living abroad stimulates creative thinking, William Maddux draws a connection between time abroad and entrepreneurial activity.
“These days,” he says, “with companies having more of an incentive for creative thinking–to find their way out of the financial crisis–any company that’s interested in creativity should be looking at people who have had these [live abroad] experiences.”
Scientific American reports briefly on the link between living abroad and creativity, but if you want the real deal, download the 15-page paper, Cultural Borders and Mental Barriers: The Relationship Between Living Abroad and Creativity, wade through the academic language, and revel in yet another reason to head for Croatia or Chad or Costa Rica.
Many artists do their best work abroad
The paper cites 5 separate studies, and mentions that “living abroad is often seen as a necessary experience for aspiring artists” and that “some creative individuals produce their best known masterworks during or following a stint abroad (e.g., Vladimir Nabokov and his novel Lolita, Ernest Hemingway and his The Sun Also Rises). In fact, all four winners of the Nobel Prize in literature who are from Ireland (Yeats, Shaw, Beckett, and Heaney) spent significant portions of their lives abroad. In addition to writers, many famous painters, (e.g., Gauguin and Picasso) and composers (e.g., Handel, Prokofiev, Stravinsky, and Schoenberg) created many of their most admired works while living in foreign countries.”
Three ways living abroad stimulates creativity
According to the paper,
1. Living abroad gives you access to a greater number of novel ideas and concepts, which then act as inputs for the creative process.
2. Living abroad allows people to approach problems from different perspectives. For example, in some cultures (e.g., China), leaving food on one’s plate is an implicit sign of appreciation, implying that the host has provided enough to eat. In other countries (e.g., the United States) the same behavior may often be taken as an insult, a condemnation of the quality of the meal.
3. Experiences in foreign cultures can increase the psychological readiness to accept and recruit ideas from unfamiliar sources, thus facilitating the processes of unconscious idea recombination and conceptual expansion.
And while I agree with all of that, the ponderous language of the study makes me want to blurt out, Yeah, and living abroad is also good FUN!