Travel Research

Study Reveals Time Abroad Will Make You More Creative

If you’ve ever watched a fashion show and wondered to yourself, “How the heck did they come up that?!” you now may have an answer: They’ve spent time abroad.

Research into the creativity behind successful fashion collections has found that fashion house art directors who have lived abroad are more creative than those who haven’t.

Earlier studies have demonstrated that living abroad can make you more creative, and this study of the fashion industry conducted by the Columbia Business School and the France-based graduate business school INSEAD, supports that claim.

Immersion into a Foreign Culture Makes People More Complex Thinkers

Collections from 270 fashion houses were examined by fashion buyers and journalists and rated for their creativity. The collections that had been produced by art directors who had lived abroad were found to be more creative, which suggests that foreign immersion makes people more skilled at thinking outside the box.

One of the study’s authors, Columbia business professor Adam Galinsky, described the study’s results in a nutshell, saying the research “shows that people who live abroad – rather than just travel abroad – and adapt and engage with other cultures have more creativity and more complexities of thought, which leads to professional successes.”

champs elysees in Paris France

The Key: Don’t Just Hang Out With Other Expats

While the study found living abroad can make you more open to new ways of looking at things, the study also discovered there can be such a thing as living in too many countries. Bouncing from country to country without fully immersing yourself into the local culture seemed to have a negative effect on creativity. The key, according to the researchers, is to stay in a singular foreign culture long enough to expose yourself to different perspectives, and to adapt to a foreign culture so that it has a real and lasting impact. This may mean familiarizing yourself with the local language and customs and befriending the locals. Or as Dr. Galinsky put it: “What’s important in the broad spectrum is that people don’t just become an expat and hang out with other expats.”

Employers Should Hire People With International Experience

The researchers claim their study demonstrates that companies should consider hiring workers who’ve had international experience, especially if the positions they’re trying to fill involve key decision makers or managers in a creative industry, like fashion.

So does this mean if I live abroad I’ll become more fashionable?

Um, no. Sadly, the study did not examine whether living abroad helps you develop a keener eye for style. I can tell you from personal experience though that traveling and living abroad will probably challenge your definition of what is and isn’t “fashion” or even clothing for that matter. Read this post about Japanese fashion if you don’t believe me!

Also, read: Living Abroad Makes You More Creative, But What Happens After Your Return Home?

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