Blogs for Culture Vultures

Live in new country to challenge your creativity

Live in new country to challenge your creativity

Recent research published in the American Psychological Association’s Journal of Personality and Social Psychology seems to suggest a truth in the long held notion that living abroad nurtures our creativity. From Byron in Switzerland to Picasso in France, cultural change has historically been seen as the way to broaden the mind and enhance the artistic senses. Now 2009 research headed by William Maddux of INSEAD really has shown that time spent engrossed in a new culture can improve our creative skills- even after we have returned ‘home’.

An initial five studies using MBA students at the Kellogg School of Management, Illinois, showed that both cognitive flexibility and negotiation skills were higher in those participants who had spent time living abroad when compared to a control group who had not. One study to solve the Duncker candle problem (where a candle must be properly attached to a wall without dripping: using a candle, a box of matches and a box of tacks) showed that those with experience living abroad were better positioned to imagine the alternative functions of these familiar objects and thus solve the problem. This could mimick the intuitive skills required when dealing with the changing levels of importance placed upon greetings, etiquette, food or clothing and so on, when living abroad.

Another study involving a mock negotiation of the sale of a gas station demonstrated that those with living abroad experience were able to be much more creative with negotiations (after the sale price had been removed as the dealbreaker). This on a much simpler level replicates the way domestic shopping differs between countries and cultures, buying spices in a Morroccan market is very different from buying clothes in a Parisian boutique.

These two examples easily portray two different skills that are invaluable to most businesses, especially given the difficulties of the current global economic climate. The need for companies to keep innovating to stay competitive makes these skills more important than ever in recruitment, meaning that potential employees with such benefits may find themselves more sought after to fill positions in businesses, especially those operating globally.

The reason for the relationship between creativity and living abroad is not altogether known, but follow-up research with MBA students in France has correlated with the earlier Duncker candle findings. Interestingly, there is no evidence that those who have only traveled abroad either possess these skills or are any better placed than those who travel domestically. This suggests that businesses might therefore benefit more from a system of extended work placements abroad, with employees based in offices in each country, rather than from repeatedly sending employees for short overseas conferences or meetings.

Moreover evidence suggests that recreating or ‘priming’ employees to remember their cultural experiences could even benefit them once they have returned ‘home’. Another follow-up study found that Parisian students were much more able to solve cognitive puzzles when recalling the cultural challenges that faced them living outside of France, when compared to the control group who were told to recall any recreational or everyday challenges they had faced.

Although this research is by no means empirically conclusive it certainly leads the way for further research and potential business initiatives; whilst asserting the message that global interaction is a collective and individual advantage to one’s life. Furthermore it is an asset to the development of modern Psychology in arguing the ‘nurtured’ acquirement of new skills beyond the constraints of Behavourism, as humans psychologically adapt to their environment.
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Chinese managers are better than Western counterparts

Western managers are falling behind their Chinese counterparts in education and training, research has warned.

China has the fastest growing global economy and - according to a study by the Institute of Leadership & Management (ILM) - also boasts a highly ambitious, sophisticated and commercially astute management population that poses a challenge to managers and businesses in the West.

The Global Management Challenge, which surveyed 327 managers in the UK, US, France and China, reveals that Chinese managers are underestimated by their Western counterparts and are launching a serious challenge to established Western business and management practices.

Read more > Chinese Managers 
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Language and Culture are issues for midwives

Language and Culture are issues for midwives
The UK's population is growing. Part of that increase is fuelled by women from other countries having children here.

And as the Local Government Association (LGA), representing 400 councils in England and Wales, outlines to a House of Lords select committee how migration stretches community services, one midwife tells how the changes affect her.

For midwife Jayne Cozens, going to work these days is also becoming something of a geography lesson.

She has worked in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, for 12 years, and her caseloads are containing increasing numbers of foreign nationals from across the globe.

Language and culture are becoming more of an issue, as Mrs Cozens' job becomes ever more multi-cultural and multi-lingual.

"It can be a challenge explaining to a 17-year-old English girl what an amniocentesis is, let alone to a teenager from abroad who doesn't speak the language," she says.

There are cultural issues, too, which midwives must handle in the course of giving their advice to non-UK nationals.

"Chinese families tend to sleep together in the same room and the same bed.

"Children, new baby, mum and dad are all together. It's what they're used to, so you go to a house and there's a couple of mattresses on the floor.

"But our advice in relation to cot death is for women to not sleep with their babies, so if you have the whole family in together then that presents a problem."

Mrs Cozens said that in the course of her work "you do learn a few words" but that this is not enough to clearly explain the full message.

Read more> Language & Culture
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Ramadan begins...

Imagine going without food or water for the entire working day, and several hours more. With Ramadan about to start, that's the challenge facing Britain's 1.6 million Muslims. How do they cope?

"Burgers. I crave burgers. I don't even like burgers normally."

Thirty-one-year-old Sumaya Amra is just one of the billion or so Muslims who takes part in the holy month of Ramadan by fasting in daylight hours, each day for 30 days.

Like many young Muslims, London-based Sumaya works in an office and has to fit the demands of a working day around her fast and her food cravings.

Read more: The BBC 
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Global Teams - A Guide For Multinationals

For global corporations, the borderless world offers a glimpse of what's to come. International success once meant having bodies and factories on the ground from São Paulo to Silicon Valley to Shanghai. Coordinating their activities was a deliberately planned effort handled by headquarters.

The challenge now is to weld these vast, globally dispersed workforces into superfast, efficient organizations. Given the conflicting needs of multinational staff and the swiftly shifting nature of competition brought about by the Internet, that's an almost impossible task. And getting workers to collaborate instantly—not tomorrow or next week, but now—requires nothing less than a management revolution.

Complicating matters is the fact that the very idea of a company is shifting away from a single outfit with full-time employees and a recognizable hierarchy. It is something much more fluid, with a classic corporation at the center of an ever-shifting network of suppliers and outsourcers, some of whom only join the team for the duration of a single project.

To adapt, multinationals are hiring sociologists to unlock the secrets of teamwork among colleagues who have never met. They're arming staff with an arsenal of new tech tools to keep them perpetually connected. They include software that helps engineers co-develop 3D prototypes in virtual worlds and services that promote social networking and that track employees and outsiders who have the skills needed to nail a job. Corporations are investing lavishly in posh campuses, crafting leadership training centers, and offering thousands of online courses to develop pipelines of talent.

Read more: Global Teams 
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