Travel can enrich our lives. It exposes us to different cultures, and offers us new ways of seeing the world. Travelling changes our perspective by literally and physically altering our point of view.
But not business travel, right? Between lost bags, delays, jet lag, client meetings, site inspections or building a tradeshow booth there just isn’t enough time to explore our surroundings or experience the culture… is there?
Science says otherwise.
Increase Creativity and Enhance Problem Solving Abilities
The idea of navigating an unfamiliar cultural environment is enough to make some people break into a nervous sweat. But what if I told you that experiences in places that are foreign to us can make us more creative?
A 2009 study found that learning about a foreign culture from within that setting can enhance our creative process.
Their findings strongly suggest that by immersing ourselves in a foreign culture, many behaviors we take for granted as “as natural and inevitable can suddenly have very different functions in a different cultural environment.” These differences open our minds to the fact that how we do things was how we learned to do things, and not, actually the only or correct option.
These experiences expose us to new ways to approach the same problems we experience in our own lives. The study found that this facilitates “an appreciation that the same problem can have multiple solutions” and, in turn, increases our “ability to approach problems from new and multiple perspectives.”
Different ≠ Weird
Derek Sivers sums the idea up perfectly in his (very short) TedTalk Weird, or just different?: “Sometimes we need to go to the opposite side of the world to realize assumptions we didn’t even know we had.”
It would seem that experiences in cultures different from our own can have a profound impact on our creative and problem solving processes.
“But,” you’re thinking, “this doesn’t apply to me because my company is just sending me to a different state.”
Not so! Culture is simply “a way of thinking, behaving, or working that exists in a place or organization.”
Adapting to our surroundings and learning about different cultures can also occur on a smaller, more local scale.
Our Business Analysts, for example, will sometimes assist clients from within their organizations, physically working on premises. This temporary placement inside our client’s physical business is an immersion into the client’s organizational culture. It’s an opportunity for our Business Analysists to learn about and adapt to their new surroundings, creating a deeper understanding and appreciation of the client’s way of interacting with the world.
Something to keep in mind for the next time you are headed out of province for a conference, relocating to a new city for a business opportunity or travelling to a far off land to demonstrate a product.