The challenging and often jolting journey towards creative and innovative solutions to complex problems should be accompanied with greater intercultural competence — greater self-awareness, reflection and the ability to bridge across differences. Two people staring at an abstract painting may see different things, have different emotions; but rather than diminishing the work, enhances it. National Geographic photographer John Dewitt says creativity occurs when we move, to look at the world (and other people) from a different perspective; placing ourselves in the place of maximum potential.
If I were to ask you what it takes to be effective across cultures, what comes to mind? If you are anything like me, then you have probably started to rattle off some of the classics: self-awareness, open-mindedness, curiosity, flexibility—maybe communication skills. All important.
But where is creativity in this picture? And why isn’t it closer to the top of the list when it comes to what it takes to be effective when working across cultures?
You could argue that creativity is an output of some of the above: if you are open-minded, curious, and flexible, you are likely to be able to be more creative, which will help you to be more effective. But I think it’s worth highlighting the importance of creativity as a stand-alone competency for working across cultures—especially when it comes not just to being aware of cultural differences, but being able to develop effective bridging…
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