Want to Boost Creativity? Move to Another Country

Last Updated Jun 29, 2009 12:09 PM EDT

Did you take advantage of a study abroad program while you were in college? If so, you may be more creative than those who didn't.

According to research appearing in the May issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, people who have lived in foreign countries carry with them life-long enhanced creative skills.

The research was conducted by William Maddux, an assistant professor of organizational behavior at Insead in France, and Adam Galinsky, the Morris and Alice Kaplan professor of ethics and decision in management at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

By conducting various cognitive tests on groups of people who have both lived abroad and resided only in their home countries, the researchers found that those who had lived abroad more readily came up with creative solutions to problems.

"This shows us that there is some sort of psychological transformation that needs to occur when people are living in a foreign country in order to enhance creativity. This may happen when people work to adapt themselves to a new culture," Galinsky told Livemint.com.

According to Maddux, "Knowing that experiences abroad are critical for creative output makes study-abroad programs and job assignments in other countries that much more important, especially for people and companies that put a premium on creativity and innovation to stay competitive."

If you're thinking this means you should book that month-long European vacation you've been dreaming about, I have some bad news: the researchers found that simply traveling abroad didn't give people the same boost to their creative output.

Poster image courtesy of Flickr user creativedc, CC 2.0

  • Stacy Blackman

    Stacy Sukov Blackman is president of Stacy Blackman Consulting, where she consults on MBA admissions. She earned her MBA from the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University and her Bachelor of Science from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. Stacy serves on the Board of Directors of AIGAC, the Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants, and has published a guide to MBA Admissions, The MBA Application Roadmap.