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How Living Abroad Gives You Creative Edge

Creativity is gold in today’s world and you, as an expat, have the golden opportunity to develop this skill to the fullest. "Why and how?", you may ask...

Life abroad is complicated. That’s a fair statement, don’t you think?

As an expat, you face situations you have never imagined you would and that forces you to figure out how to deal with them. You have to really put your imagination at work. You need to find new ways to perform ordinary tasks because your way is just not feasible in your new surroundings. So what do you do? You find an original idea to make that situation work.

Do you know the definition of creativity?

Creativity is the process of having original ideas that have value.

That means, as an expat, you practice your creative side each and every day without even consciously trying to do so. Creativity is gold in today’s world and this life abroad offers the golden opportunity to develop this skill to the fullest.

“Why and how?”, you may ask…

You come up with your own original idea to deal with a challenging situation or you observe and learn from your environment to incorporate new aspects or you adapt new ways from this new culture to your own arsenal of options. The possibilities are endless.

How does that play out in your professional life?

You may have heard of the famous IBM Survey of more than 1,500 Chief Executive Officers from 60 countries and 33 industries worldwide:

“Chief executives believe that — more than rigor, management discipline, integrity or even vision — successfully navigating an increasing complex world will require CREATIVITY.”

Did you know that CEOs have to consciously think about ways to train themselves and their teams creativity? They have to go out of their way to enter in situations that come naturally to an expat.

According to a great article by Emma Seppa Ph.D. “How Senior Executives Find Time to be Creative”, the most useful creativity boosters for CEOs are: seek out unfamiliarity, give yourself room to think, learn about things beyond your niche, and identify useful constraints. Let’s apply these to life abroad:

“Seek out unfamiliarity”

While CEOs have to consciously look for ways to find unfamiliar things – be it by reading magazines they would never otherwise pick up or having to remember to observe the little every-day things, for us expats, that’s a daily routine we are forced into. While it may seem difficult at first, it is a fantastic opportunity to “step outside your comfort zone” and build up skills for life. Need more evidence? Check out our Glass Half Full... of Opportunities article.

“Give Yourself Room to Think”

While CEOs have to plan time for themselves to think creatively and try to disconnect from what they know so they can figure out new creative solutions, we expats are already distanced, we already have that room to think. That helps us to uncover how to best take advantage of our newfound freedom to explore, build, create, learn, reinvent yourself. It is a gift!

“Learn about things beyond your niche”

While CEOs have to make time to gather other’s thoughts and ideas. They have to consciously pick diverse teams so there is a wide spectrum of view-points (how to get those view-points out in the open and effectively utilize the power of diversity is another question, but on that, later). We, the expats, are directly put in that situation. We live in a foreign environment where the culture, the people, the society is built differently and it is a unique treasure to have the opportunity to learn about the differences, to discover new angles and to open your mind to new possibilities, new ways to do things differently that you can apply later in life, in your new home or to advance your career.

“Identify useful constraints”

That one is a bit controversial as the opposing view is that ideas should have no limits. You have to think of all the possibilities and then see how to apply it. However, as the definition of creativity is “the process of original ideas that have value”, it implies a “constraint” of applicable ideas, valuable for certain situations. So constraints don’t necessarily have to be narrow but the ideas should have a practical purpose.

In this sense, we the expats are also lucky. We don’t have to think about the constraints when posing a problem or looking for ideas. We can train our brains with the day-to-day life where we need creative solutions to specific situations. Our constraints are already set by the need to adapt to a new environment. That immediately sets the stage for our creativity to roam freely in search for solutions. Sometimes, those solutions are to problems no one even knew existed. Those are precisely the solutions CEOs are looking for! That is precisely the creativity the CEOs are searching for!

After all, a few decades ago, who knew they needed a smart phone?

We, at GloberWeb, have a ton of experience in creative problem-solving and opportunity-finding having lived and worked around the world. In fact, we use those experiences as a blueprint to help organizations become more creative and innovative through the diversity of their talent. Let us elaborate on that and see how we can work together to unleash the power of your diverse team. Contact us.


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